- Alan Ward
Davy’s torch paints an arc in the air like a sparkler. Its beam rides the contours of the ground. The beam paints grass, cast almost white with dew, and then rocks. Familiar rocks forming a steep path. Outside the circle of torchlight there is nothing, just the black. Davy could be anywhere.
He remembers reading a theory that the moon is a hollow construct, a beacon sending signals and projections to confuse the telescopes and instruments on Earth: the rest of the universe a result of its deception. This could be the same, the torch sending back images that happen to look like the edge of a moor and a path made of rock. But Davy knows it is real.
The path twists. Yes, this is where he ran. This way. He feels a force stroking the hairs on the back of his neck, pulling at his stomach, drawing sweat from his arms even though he’s cold. The torch throws back a large boulder, perhaps the one he tripped on. He still tastes blood at the corner of his mouth, and if he runs his tongue along his lip he can feel the iron scab.
He has to see them again. He has know if they’re real, even if no one else will believe him. Last night when he’d been running from Carter and the others he’d been scuffed about too much – and slipped on that boulder and hit his head – and he couldn't be sure.
Davy looks at his watch, which means sacrificing the path ahead of him for its small face. Three minutes past midnight.
And then the ground moves, fine dirt and pebbles slip under his trainers, and he thinks he’ll lose his balance again. But no: this is it, the entrance to the cave. Davy wriggles his way down, tasting the thick, warm air that first alerted him that this would be a far from usual hiding place. The cave gets so narrow he thinks he’ll hit a dead end: evidence he imagined it all.
It widens just when he thinks it will squeeze his chest until he can’t breathe. And he’s just in time. He clicks off the torch, he doesn't need it any longer. They’ve already began to glow. He positions himself clear of the entrance.
It looks, at first, as if small pebbles in the cave walls have been heated. They’ve got a red, volcanic glow. But they grow, in brightness and size, and unfurl wings. Fire wings. The creatures stretch like butterflies.
With the suddenness of bats at sunset, and with the same speed, they all rush for the cave mouth at the same time, streaking past Davy in a blaze.