The creature stands not fifteen metres away, just visible through the drifts of ash and dust. It's huge, eight or nine foot tall, its whole body covered in thick, bony plates. And there's Sharon, gripped like a child against its body. She's struggling, kicking at it wildly, her tiny pale hands scrabbling against the thick trunk of its arm. Her screams are growing weaker, more hopeless. She's crying, and the sound of it feels like something twisting painfully in my chest.
As I watch the thing throws back its head, opens an absurdly tiny mouth and howls towards the sky. The sound is exactly the noise I heard before: a croaking, hissing kind of ululation that sends a squirm through my spine. It makes me want to cover my ears, to find a hole in the ground and hide. It's a primeval noise, a predator's noise. The sound of death.
No sooner has the howl faded than it's answered, from close by. I watch as another of the monsters--identical to the first--comes striding into view, walking with a weird, gorilla-like gait, almost on all fours. Then another appears from the other direction, and this one is carrying something. I have to squint for a moment before I realise that it's a person. Clasped against the creature's chest is a man in a torn and dust-covered suit. He looks limp, unconscious. Maybe dead, whispers a voice in my head.
The creatures converge. For a moment they stand there, each of them grumbling and growling in their weird mangled voices, for all the world as if they're having a conversation. Looking at them with their armour and their size and their power makes me feel so small and weak, nothing more than an insect, a bug for them to crush without even a second thought. Sharon still struggles, but she's gone quiet, perhaps afraid of drawing too much attention. I wish I could reach out to her. I wish I could just let her know that I am here, watching, waiting for a chance to save her. But there's no way I can draw her attention without the creatures seeing me. Oh God, she must be so scared.
The things finish their bizarre conversation, then move apart, turning their backs on me. For a second, everything is still, and I get the impression that they're waiting for something. Then, as one, they all start to howl. The sound is hideous: it hits me with a physical force, makes my insides turn to water. Makes me cower in my hiding place like a child.
And then, beyond the Creatures, the ground itself starts to move.