A single white desk lamp illuminated Carrie Stein’s makeshift writer’s desk, providing the only source of light under the winter sky for miles in every direction.
The bulb was dim from years of unkept use and was only just capable of lighting Carrie’s desktop, leaving her and the rest of the room in the shadows.
The fireplace had extinguished who knows how long ago and Carrie sat huddled in a thick quilt hiding from the piercing cold, frantically writing away at the final chapter in the first rough draft of her next novel.
Carrie was so close to finishing Alison’s story, but at the same time was anxious to see it end. Entirely by her agent’s suggestion six months prior, Carrie had tentatively begun Alison’s Amazing Adventures on a hand-wavy request to write something with a happy ending for once. Well, her agent specifically asked, per typo, for a “harpy ending”, but Carrie knew what he meant. It started out rough, awkwardly bumping through two or three chapters riddled with unfortunate hardships plaguing Alison, but hard work and a good heart eventually prevailed and Alison finally found herself with powerful new friendships and a new outlook on life.
Carrie penned the final page with an excited hand that reflected in her penmanship.
“And,” she read aloud, pausing for emphasis between writing each word, “Alison lived happily, ever after.”
The author leaned back in her chair, unintentionally popping her back against the sturdy wood as she stretched, wooden creaks breaking the silence that had been building up for hours.
“It’s done,” she exhaled, proud of the child she’d birthed from her mind.
“Alison’s Amazing Adventures are over.”
She sighed, then picked up her manuscript, ruffling through the pages and glancing through at her hard work finally paid off, almost brightening the room with the intensity of her smile. Excitement radiated from her and she softly set the adventures on the desk before fumbling for her phone to text her agent: “It’s done. It’s finally done! Free tomorrow? I want to throw some ideas at you before first revision.”
She sent the message and leaned back in her chair again, immensely relaxed, as if the weight of the world had just been lifted from her shoulders. She glanced at her watch; it was almost seven, so there was a chance Joel could still text back tonight.
Returning her gaze to the novel in front of her, Carrie was struck again with an extreme giddiness, fully soaking in the fact that the story was finally told. She picked it up once more, holding it gently in her hands, and muttered with a grin, “My baby.”
Still muttering, she started rattling off the names of who else she’d tell about her accomplishment, unsure of what else to do for the rest of the night. Every other night for the past half year had been filled to the brim with narrating Alison’s experiences, and now that there was nothing else to tell, something felt missing.
Carrie glanced back towards the bed, thinking Maybe I should get some well-deserved sleep.
A blast of noise from the window next to her desk yanked her attention back just in time to see the bedroom window burst open with fragments of glass splintering into the air.
A small shard of glass hit Carrie’s glasses in the left lense before she had managed to convince her body to react and close her eyes. The glass didn’t pierce through, fortunately, but did leave a large crack running through that disoriented the woman trying to make sense of the situation. An oceanic wave of glass seemed to crash down on her immediately afterwards, hailing onto the thick flannel she’d been wearing for the cold and the little exposed skin she had. The million tiny impacts were then followed by glass raining down to the wooden floor.
Adrenaline finally found its way through Carrie’s veins and time relaxed, slowing down to a crawl that let the terrified woman see everything happening at once. Before the last of the completely smashed window had hit the ground, the first of three harpies had swooped in through the window with black, soulless eyes peering intensely at their prey.
The third and final harpy was already in the room by the time Carrie had begun to scream, though she knew there was no one around for miles to hear her. Maybe, she thought, the noise might scare them away.
She knew the answer was no, but she looked around to see if there was anything worthwhile to use as a weapon nearby—unsuccessfully. Instead, she gripped her favorite pen tightly, raising it up to her chest in some faux defensive stance. This’ll have to do.
A false importance on imagination unfortunately led her to believe she would be capable of fighting off an avian beast, let alone one—or three—of ancient myths. Within seconds she had been superficially shredded and thrown to the ground, fighting for life long enough to see—in slow motion—the creatures picking up her baby and throwing it high into the air where it floated in place momentarily, before exploding into hundreds of individual pages fluttering chaotically through the air as each harpy shot through the air gnawing, gnashing, and clawing at every page they could.
A million final thoughts rushed through Carrie’s head as she closed her eyes for the last time, the majority of which questioning whether she was actually living through these dozen seconds of hell or if she were dreaming, or drunk, or just vividly daydreaming. She willed to pinch herself, but her body refused to move. One of the winged beasts landed next to where Carrie lied motionless and pecked at the puddle of blood pooling beneath her.