Eyelids of the Dawn
biblical fantasy | short story
Noah’s ark holds the last surviving members of the human race—and the last descendants of the Nephilim in the form of three women married to Noah’s sons.
It also holds the last remnants of all land-dwelling beasts, so when a mysterious creature boards the ship and starts tearing animals’ throats out, there’s no time to waste in stopping it.
While Noah and his sons try to hunt the creature down the human way, his daughters-in-law use their own unique skills to hunt the bloodthirsty beast. But with the future of all humanity at stake, even the inhuman abilities of the Nephilim may not be enough against a shape-changing, impossibly resilient vampire.
somewhere above the Middle East, circa B.C. 2304
A burst of fire flashed across the distant sea—if words like sea even meant anything when there was no land left. A geyser shot up before the flames. Frothing water gleamed in the moonlight, churned by the thrashing of the great fish as it tried in vain to escape its pursuer. Another shape breached the surface, more fire erupting, and the leviathan struck. Even as it fought for its life, the great fish sang its own dirge.
Watching from the deck of the ark, Zundali snorted. “Why does a beast that lives in the water need to breathe fire—especially one that’s already so fearsome?”
Beside her, Janna shuddered, unable to look away. “Sometimes,” she said in a quiet voice, “I think that God made such creatures simply to show that he could.”
“And now he’s destroying most of them. Is that also to show that he can?”
“No. That’s because of us.”
A chill wind blew across them, and Janna shivered. Zundali wrapped her arm around her sister-in-law’s shoulders. It had become cold since the rain fell. She wondered if it would last.
The door to below-decks burst open. “Sisters!” The lantern in Sei’s hand swung erratically, casting mad shadows across her face.
“Sei?” Zundali asked. “What’s wrong?”
“Something has killed one of the tyrants.”
“What?” Zundali’s stomach leapt toward her heart. The family hadn’t known what the tyrants were when they’d come to the ark. Though nearly as tall as Zundali, they moved with an awkwardness that made clear they were young for their kind. Not knowing if the creatures had a name or what it might be, the family had called them tyrants due to their voracious hunger and equally voracious demands for Zundali’s attention. They were playful as young ones, but Zundali suspected as adults they would be terrible indeed.
One thing the family had known immediately, though: the tyrants were unclean animals. They knew this because God had sent only two.
Sei’s free hand moved abortively to the sword she wasn’t wearing—after all, what need was there for a sword when the only humans alive were her own family? “Its throat was ripped open,” she ground out, teeth clenched in frustration. “But there is little blood on the floor. I do not know what killed it.”
Janna grabbed Zundali’s arm. “One is dead? That means—”
“I know.” To Sei, Zundali said, “Show me.”
The three women ran through the ark. Though very small, Sei was fast. Zundali could barely keep up, and they lost Janna by the time they arrived on the deck holding the most dangerous animals.
Screams and howls threatened to deafen them when they reached the main enclosure. Whatever had killed the tyrant had terrified the other beasts. Zundali shouted over the din, “I need to calm them down or more will die!”
Sei nodded and kept going. Zundali’s presence was already having an effect. The noise lessened, the beasts closest to her beginning to calm. She moved to one of the stalls. A low, warning rumble came from the shadows. Taking a lantern from the wall, she held it out so she could see the beast’s face. The cat was even blacker than she was—black enough that she could barely make it out beyond the lamplight. It hunched against the bulkhead, its ears pressed back. When her hazel eyes met its yellow ones, the cat opened wide its jaws and hissed, showing a pair of fangs so impressive they were more like tusks. Something moved, and she shot a look to the other cat. The black one’s mate—tuskless, with a beautiful pelt of spots and stripes—stopped in mid-lunge, faltered, then put its ears forward. Zundali patted its head and opened the slatted door. The black cat hissed again, lifting a paw, preparing to swipe at her.
“Calm down,” she told the cat, staring into its eyes. “I don’t have time for this.”
The black cat lowered its paw, twitched its ears forward, and relaxed onto its haunches. Most people would have been relieved to still have all their body parts. Zundali merely moved to the next stall.
By the time she had calmed half a dozen animals, the rest had settled down enough to not be a danger to themselves or their mates. As she continued on to the tyrants’ stall, Janna finally caught up.
They froze when they reached the open stall door. Janna gasped, her blue eyes went wide, and her already pale skin turned almost milk white. Sei, already within the stall, nodded her agreement, her mouth a thin line.
Failure ate at Zundali’s insides as she stepped toward the tyrant’s body. The soft, hairless skin of the beast was marred with gouges: defensive wounds. Its throat had been torn almost completely out. Bits of meat lay in tiny pools of blood on the floor. Flesh hung in strips from the bones of its neck. A wound like that should have painted the floor in the tyrant’s blood, but there was very little.
“Whatever attacked it left the meat and took the blood. How many creatures live on blood?” Zundali asked.
“Some,” Sei said. “Not many. None large enough to do this that I know of.”
“We’ve been afloat for nearly a hundred days. If one of the other beasts was capable of something like this, I think we would have seen it before now. Besides, I don’t see any broken stalls or open doors.” The tyrant’s mate was lying in a corner of the stall, quivering. It seemed even Zundali’s presence wasn’t enough to soothe it after the brutal attack. “Janna, please take a look at the other one. It may be injured.”
Janna snapped out of her shock and looked from Zundali to the solitary tyrant. “But without its mate—”
“I know, but that’s no reason to give up on the one that’s still left. Even if it’s the last one there will ever be.” Zundali wasn’t proud of it, but a small part of her was glad her children wouldn’t have to share the world with these predators.
Janna took Sei’s lantern and crept toward the weakened tyrant. It flinched at her touch but appeared too weak to fight or try to get away. “It’s scratched in several places,” Janna said, “and it has a cracked rib. Perhaps it tried to defend its mate and was knocked aside.”
“Do what you can for it,” Zundali said gently. Outside the stall, she held her lantern up to the broken doorframe. “Sei, look.” Long gouges marred the wood all around the frame, but one set in particular sent a chill through her. Five deep gashes, four on one side and one on the other. Zundali lined her fingers up with them, wrapping them around the side of the door as if to toss it back. Zundali was a large woman, taller than most men not of her race, but her fingertips barely grazed the closest tips of the gouges.
“Not hands.” Sei’s quiet voice was tight, her brow furrowed. “Claws?”
“No creature has hands and claws. Not like this.”
Zundali couldn’t come up with an answer for her. “We need to wake the others.”