Chapter Forty-nine: The LocustsEdit
"Oh, my, I can't believe I just saw that!" Samantha said, holding her hand over her mouth. "It - it was horrible!"
"Let's just get out of here," Chaleen replied. "I've got to get some of this written down before I forget it."
"You're still thinking about your stupid book?" Samantha asked incredulously. "What about your life? Don't you care about that?"
"Of course, I have. If I die, I can't publish my book and get rich," Chaleen said with a rather greedy smile.
Samantha suddenly pulled Chaleen away as the giant Spider began moving closer to them. As the two women ran down the street, the Spider pursued them, apparently finding the Brights much more appetizing than the rest of the people running in all directions. They quickly ran into a nearby movie theater, which was nearly abandoned, though they could see a movie poster showing a monsterous creature tearing up New York City.
"Now, what kind of a sick person sees that when there are really monsters destroying the city?" Samantha asked. "It's almost as insensitive as some of your news reports," she added with a sharp look at her daughter.
"That would be me!" a voice said suddenly. Samantha and Chaleen turned to see a pimple-faced teenager. "I've decided to see Oblivion today and that's what I'm doing no matter what!" The moment after these words were out of his mouth, the power went out.
"How are we doing?" Audrey asked Eddie as they flew over the countryside.
"You want an honest answer or something comforting?" Eddie asked wryly.
"How about something comforting," Margaret suggested.
"We're doing great!" Eddie replied. Brian rolled his eyes in exasperation.
"Oh, don't be like that!" Audrey told him. "Things could be worse."
"How?" Brian asked sardonically.
"Uh, oh," Eddie said suddenly, "giant grasshopper at three o'clock!"
"It's nowhere near three o'clock!" Margaret said, looking at her old-fashioned watch. "Your clock must be broken." Eddie ignored her as he moved the plane downwards to avoid the Grasshopper.
"Now, really, why do all the were-animals have to be scary animals?" Margaret asked impatiently. "Why can't there be any were-butterflies or were-kittens?"
"Well, if there were, they'd probably want to eat humans anyway," Brian pointed out, "And Dad is a were-cat, only he's a full grown one." Margaret sighed.
"There just isn't enough optimism in the world these days," Margaret commented as Eddie swerved the plane around to avoid the giant carnivorous insect.
"It's a good thing the Penmount police agreed to look after that Wolverine," remarked Brian. "I certainly wouldn't want to have him around here!"
"Uh, oh," Audrey said suddenly, her wide eyes fixed out her window, "I think it's a locust."
"Why?" Brian asked impatiently.
"Because that's the rest of the swarm," she said, pointing out her window at what resembled a giant storm cloud moving quickly over the hills.
"How on earth would all those monsters form?" asked Brian incredulously. "Locusts usually don't bite people!"
"And it's winter nonetheless!" Audrey remarked.
"Haven't you ever heard of migrations?" asked Eddie.
"You mean from the south? Yeah, but why up here where there's no vegetation right now?"
Eddie had no time to answer, for the cloud was rapidly approaching. "These things multiply quickly," he said, steering to avoid the first few monstrous insects. "I'll bet there were a few left over from the summer, and they somehow spread their genes to humans."
Now the plane was being pelted with the monsters, and was threatening to go off course. "Hang on!" shouted Eddie, masterfully dodging this way and that. Several insects got their heads lopped off by the propellers. "It's gonna be a bumpy ride!"
Chapter Fifty: JoeyEdit
"Except that..." the teenager said eventually, looking around the darkened theater. He turned to Chaleen and Samantha.
"Who are you?" he asked Chaleen. "You look familiar."
"Well, I'm Chaleen Bright," Chaleen said with a trace of her usual giddiness, "and I -"
"Chaleen Bright?" the boy asked, sounding terrified. "The werebat?"
"Yes, but I'm not a -" Chaleen said quickly.
"Cool!" the teenager interrupted. "Can you bite me? I want to be a were-beast too!" Chaleen and Samantha looked disgusted.
"Do you have a name?" Samantha asked him.
"I'm Joey Legrand," the boy replied proudly, "and my parents were just killed by the Spider!"
"And how does that make you feel?" Chaleen asked, getting back into her "reporter" mode. "Hurt? Distressed? Scared? Lonely?"
"No, it makes me feel like Luke Skywalker," Joey told her. "In movies, the kid always gets his parents killed before he goes on to a big adventure and becomes a hero!"
"Well, this isn't a movie, this is real!" Samantha shouted. "R - E - A - L...real!"
"I know that!" Joey said indignantly. "How do you know real life isn't like the movies? I mean, we already have all these were-beasts running around. Isn't that like a movie?"
"Yes..." Samantha said slowly, "...but this time real people are being killed instead of computer-generated crowds."
"Oh, let's just get out of here before another were-animal shows up!" Chaleen said in exasperation. "I already have enough material for a thousand stories."
Suddenly, there was a loud buzzing sound overhead. "W-what's that?" whimpered Samantha, looking up. "It sounds like a swarm of bees!"
"It's much worse," said a voice behind them. They whirled around to see a heavily-clothed man. He was wearing a black snowsuit, sunglasses and had a thick beard. A gun was in his hand. "It's a swarm of locusts!"
"You mean, were-locusts?" asked Joey in wonderment.
"Son," the man said, "You may think being a were-creature is glamorous. Let me tell you, it's anything but glamorous. It's the most horrible thing that could happen to you."
"How do you know?" asked Joey, snorting.
"Because I was one."
"What's your name?" asked Chaleen, curiously.
"Former Seargent Henry Andrews."
"Andrews?" Chaleen asked excitedly. "The Lizard?" She started excitedly jumping up and down. "Ooo, this is going to be the greatest interview of my career!"
"You were a werebat," Samantha pointed out. "Why don't you interview yourself?"
"But didn't you hear?" asked Chaleen. "He's supposed to be dead!"
"I was almost dead when the soldiers found me," said Andrews, sitting down in one of the seats. "Fortunately, they were able to save me from the edge of death. Now, as I hear it, my would-be killer is a bull-man."
McPherson and Montgomery sat dazed and terrified in the helicopter that was taking them to Grand Rapids. "That's the most horrible thing I've ever experienced," said Montgomery, looking out the window to see the skyline of the Michigan city appear in the distance. "I don't think it was a good idea to inject Jones with that stuff."
McPherson snorted. "Not a good idea? Let me tell you, that was the most idiot idea in the world! Hendersen should've known that beast would kill him!"
Monty sighed and looked at the floor. "Well, now his own 'friends' will be after him. They're not going to tolerate a minotaur, even if it is a member of their fanatist organization."
Suddenly, a thick cloud appeared in the east. "Good heavens, what's that?" exclaimed McPherson, standing up. The pilot cursed. "I was hoping we'd get there ahead of them!"
Chapter Fifty-one: Shimmings' FallEdit
"GIANT LOCUSTS!" Stuart bellowed. "YOU LED A SWARM OF GIANT LOCUSTS DOWN ONTO THE CITY?"
"Well, w-w-what were we supposed to do?" Audrey asked nervously. "I mean, they just started chasing us."
"GIANT LOCUSTS!" Stuart repeated. "THERE ISN'T ENOUGH FOOD ON THIS PLANET TO FEED THEM!"
"Now, please, sir, be reasonable," McPherson said delicately. "What could they possibly have done to stop them?"
"GIANT LOCUSTS!" Stuart repeated again as though his vocabulary had just been reduced to those two words.
"The General has every right to be indignant," Marone said in a much calmer voice. "After all, your actions have endangered many people's lives."
"Why you little suck-up!" McPherson shouted, losing his temper, but Monty held him back.
"Please, General, you're all about efficiency," Montgomery pointed out. "How efficient is it to yell the same thing over and over again?" Stuart paused.
"I guess, you're right," he said eventually. "There's no use yelling over spilled milk."
"It's crying over spilled milk," Brian told him.
"I'll say it the way I want, Harper!" Stuart shouted, slaming one of his fists down on his desk. "I can't beileve how bad this has gotten! It just jumped up on us in early December with a few scattered cases. Now it's the twenty-third and the whole thing is completely out of control!"
"The twenty-third?" Margaret said in surprise. "Goodness, that means...tomorrow’s Christmas Eve." Brian and Audrey were temporarily stunned - it was incredible that anything as ordinary as Christmas could still exist.
"I don't care what day it is!" Stuart shouted. "The fact that it's almost Jesus' birthday doesn't change the fact that we're almost on the brick of Armageddon!"
But the Harpers did care. Margaret had come to their new home for Christmas...it seemed almost as though that had been in another world...maybe another universe...
The minotaur ran through the snowy forest, smashing down anything that stood in its way. Trees, rocks, anything that happened to be in front of it was smashed to pieces. In its subconcious mind, Blake was furious at Shimmings. As far as he was concerned, it was the former doctor's fault that he had become a monster. After all, Deman was the one who had sent him on this mission! Now he would die...
At this moment, the man himself was driving alongside the same cliff that James Harper had been the night of the Bobcat incident. Now, as his car was rushing towards Albiville ahead of the police, who had discovered his hideout, something leaped from the trees on the right side of the road and landed in front of him. He slammed hard on the brakes and skidded to a stop just in front of the guard rail. He looked through his windshield in shock and horror. There in front of him was a horrible Bull-man!
"It's Jones!" he said to himself, remembering the police reports. "Curse that foul Hendersen! Well, I can't let him live. He'll have to die like the rest!"
But the gods of irony had set this up. As Deman opened the door, the Minotaur rushed to the car and tore off the door to the passenger's seat, trying to get to Shimmings. The car was now pushed up against the guard rail, so Deman couldn't open his door. "CURSE YOU!" he shouted at the minotaur, which gave a bellow in reply. "LET GO OF MY CAR!"
By now, the minotaur had managed to rip off some of the roof. Deman had no other escape, so he took his nearly-empty pistol and aimed. "Get back, you demon!" he shouted in panic, sweat popping out all over his face. "BACK!"
But the former Jones didn't listen. All it wanted to do was kill him, and kill him it would.
James Harper sat up in his hospital bed. "Wha—what happened?" he asked in surprise, seeing the doctors and several soldiers surrounding his bed.
"I'll keep it simple," said one of the doctors, who was identified as Smith. "You got overexposed to some UV rays. It activated the virus, and you became the cat again."
James grunted in frustration. "Why can't I escape this curse?" he asked angrily, pounding his fist on the bed.
"It's not neccessarily a curse," said Dr. Smith. "You managed to get rid of several Alliance members. That was quite a favor."
"I'm not out to kill people!" exclaimed James. "I don't want to be a murderer!"
"It was either them or you," said Smith. "Now listen, you may not like to hear this, but there's no way at present that we can cure you totally of the virus. We can remove the mutations, but that's all." Harper sighed and lay back down.
"You'll be happy to know that your family is safe back at the Detroit base," said one of the militia, more finely dressed than any of the other soldiers. "However, there's also some bad news."
"What?" asked James, sitting up suddenly.
"They were followed by a large swarm of—well, locust-men. However, I wouldn't worry too much about them because, it being winter, they're bound to die off soon from lack of vegetation."
"I hope so," said James. "I'm getting sick of all these were-creatures."
"We're doing our best to find and cure them," said the man, Corporal O'Neill. "Unfortunately, the Alliance is out for their blood. You have to be extra careful now, James. You've killed several of them, and they're after you more than any other."
James remembered how they had smashed up his house. "I'd like to have Shimming's head on a silver platter," he said furiously. "I swear I'd like to tear him apart!"
"Still retaining some cat-like tendencies, I see," said a female doctor. "Poor man."
"I'm sorry," said James, laying back down slowly. "It's just I get so mad at him for all he's done, and all the lives he's taken. I'd like to see him get paid back."
"I understand, but you can't go paying back evil for evil all the time," said Dr. Smith. "I know you want to, but justice will be served eventually. In the meantime, just rest a bit." Dr. Harper nodded and closed his eyes.
The cruisers all parked along the edge of the cliff, surrounding the tranquilized minotaur. "Well, Officer," said one of the policemen to Chief Jansen, "There's no remainder of Shimmings or his car, save for the tracks going down the cliff. All we can assume for now is that he's dead."
"I guess that's that," said Jansen. "We'll close his file then."
But, farther down the embankement, Shimmings was lying on his back, having just barely escaped the car as it plunged over the cliff. He had heard every word of the conversation. "Oh no, not yet, Jansen!" he hissed. "And I'm gonna finish my mission, if I have to tear down every house in the country! Those monsters are not going to survive! And Harper and Jones are going first!
Chapter Fifty-two: RevelationsEdit
Chaleen, Samantha, Joey and Andrews were all huddled in Theater 12, which was completely abandoned, as the sounds of Were-Locusts pounded on the outside of the building.
"This is just like a movie!" Joey exclaimed excitedly. He turned to Chaleen. "You're obviously the hot girl. When do we get to make out?" Looking at him with disgust, Chaleen backed towards Andrews.
"All right, does anyone have anything to write with?" she asked the others.
"What do you want something to write with for?" Samantha asked darkly.
"To record my interview with Seargent Andrews!" Chaleen replied as though this were the most obvious thing in the world.
"Can't you wait until we get out of here?" asked Samantha, rolling her eyes.
"Well, what if Andrews dies?" Chaleen asked. "I need to do the interview now in case something happens to him!" Chaleen looked around quickly and then pulled off her pink jacket. She was wearing a lighter pink shirt underneath it.
Joey started. Wow, he thought to himself.
"No," Chaleen said quite firmly, as if sensing his thoughts. She took out a container of her precious lip gloss, "I'm going to use this to write my interview on. Unfortunately, I'll have to use shorthand instead of my trademarked extra-special cursive."
"Oh, what a shame," Samantha said sarcastically.
"Thank you," Chaleen said cheerfully. "So, tell me, Seargent, what happened...right from the beginning."
BAM! BADADADADADADADAD! The sounds came rattling from the roof of the building. "Good heavens, what's that?" exclaimed Monty, looking up.
"Sounds like a machine gun!" remarked Brian, looking towards the window.
"It IS a machine gun," said Captain Bill Marone. "In fact, it's a bunch of them."
General Stuart looked at him intently. "What's going on up there?"
"A squadron of soldiers is picking off the locusts with M-16's," the captain replied. "I instructed them to."
Officer McPherson sighed. "I don't suppose it would be worthwhile to try to bring them back," he said.
"We're not even sure if they are human," said the general. "I can't understand how so many of them would pop up all at once!"
A battered, twisted body tumbled past the window. "There goes one of them," said Marone.
Suddenly, Stuart's radio buzzed. "This is General Stuart," he said into it. "Who is this?"
"General?" came a hoarse voice on the other end. "This is Dr. Simmons, your head scientist. There's someone who's demanding to see you."
"I'm busy!" shouted the general. "Who is it?"
"I don't know the name, but he looks like he just came in off the street. He says it's extremely important."
"Tell him I don't speak to bums!"
"He won't leave, sir! Wait, he says that he's from London."
"I wouldn't care if he was from New York!" Stuart said angrily. "Tell him to buzz off!"
"Sir, he says he's on London's medical research team."
Stuart looked quizzical. "What?"
"London's medical research team, sir!" said Dr. Simmons, who sounded more impatient. "Can I please just send him in?"
Stuart looked around at all of them. "As if I haven't enough visitors already," he grunted. "All right, Simmons, send him up."
A few minutes later, the door opened and there stood the doctor. He did indeed look like an ordinary hooligan from off the streets; his clothes were old and torn, his beard was long and ragged, and his shoes were worn. He spoke with a distinctly British accent.
"Sir," he said, addressing the general, "I've been looking for you for a long time now."
"Who are you?" asked Stuart gruffly. "I don't believe I've ever seen you before."
"No, you haven't," said the man. "But I was told I should speak to you in regards to this virus, since you're the top expert on it."
"Well, it's mainly our head scientists that do that," Stuart said, rather modestly. "I'm mainly concerned with warfare and all that. But what is it that you need to inform me of so badly?"
"I've been in the country for months now," said the doctor, as if Stuart hadn't asked him. "I've been running from—well, I won't talk of that now. But I have a bit of information on this virus that you might find interesting."
"Out with it!" said the general, impatiently. "I don't have all day! I'm a busy man!"
"Understandably," the doctor answered. "Here's the bottom line: there's been a massive cover-up." There was a pause.
"Well, what kind of cover-up?" Stuart asked impatiently.
"Well," the doctor began. "The virus' origins are different than you all thought. It's not thousands of years old, it happened during one of a Dr. Wenchell's experiments. He took an ordinary HIV virus, with the hopes to turn it into a vector. He tried it on a fly specimen, but the fly ended up biting him and transferring its genes to him."
"Wait a second," said Monty. "I thought that happened in one of our labs!"
"You re-did it," said the man. "His co-workers found the half-fly monster and killed it, then took his notes and used them to remove the virus' ability to transfer genes. Unfortunately, the process that Dr. Wenchell used permenantly changed the virus, so that after they removed the virus' specific bases, it caused other deadly mutations. Finally, they took it to Asia in an attempt to remove it from the knowledge of the rest of the world. But of course, it had to be carried inside a host. Two sherpas saw it under the ice, and then uncovered it. Their bodies were later discovered by the Chinese military."
"Who are you?" Stuart asked in about the calmest voice he'd ever used. "Where did you come by this intel and why should we believe you?"
Shimmings struggled up the steep cliff, grabbing roots and vines wherever he could. He was grinding his teeth and thinking of what he would do to all those horrible werebeasts.
"I guess we'd better get of here," Jansen said. "There's no use remaining around here when we have so much else to do." But Shimmings didn't want them to leave...he wanted to kill them all!
"Get me off this stupid thing!" he shouted. All the police officer ran to the edge to see the madman clinging onto the cliff.
"It's Shimmings!" one of the officers shouted. "Let's kill him!"
"No," Jansen said, holding the officer back. "We can only kill in self-defence. He must stand trial." The officer reluctantly put his gun down.
"We'll get a pulley and bring him up to the edge of the cliff," Jansen told the others. "Then we'll keep him locked him up until we can get this whole thing under control. Then he'll be brought to justice."
Oh no, I won't, Shimmings thought evilly. Because I'm going to kill you all now!
Chapter Fifty-three: Poetic justiceEdit
Andrews went on and on, explaining everything that had happened to him starting with him he got turned into the Lizard.
"This is boring!" Joey complained. "When's something exciting going to happen?" As though waiting for him to say this, one of the giant locusts burst through the movie screen. Everyone ran backward except for Joey.
"Now, I get to fight one of the werebeasts!" he said, raising his bony fists.
"No!" Chaleen shouted. "You'll get yourself killed!" Chaleen ran forward to pull Joey back with the others, but he struggled.
"You don't understand; this is my destiny!" he insisted.
However, Chaleen, displaying a selflessness no one had ever seen in her before, pushed him backwards and put herself right in front of the blood-thirsty beast. The monster grabbed Chaleen's head and most of her shoulders in its giant mouth and bit down hard. Samantha screamed as oodles of blood poured down her daughter pink garments, which they clashed badly with. Suddenly, there was a sound of machine gun fire and the beast fell harmlessly to the ground.
Several soldiers walked into the theater to see Samantha and Andrews shaking. Even Joey was affected - he had vomited on the ground. What the beast had done to Chaleen was so incredibly horrible he couldn't stomach it - it was nothing like those fake bloodbaths he had seen in "R"-rated films that he was technically too young to be allowed to watch.
"I think we've got the last of them," a soldier said into his walkie-talkie. "We've also found some more refugees." A female soldier pulled an unmoving, bloodied Chaleen out of the giant Locust's mouth and felt the reporter's heart.
"I’m getting a pulse," the woman said. "She's still alive, but not for long! We've got to get to a hospital now!"
"I can't tell you my name," the doctor told Stuart, "just call me 'Joe Bloggs.'"
"Well, that's helpful," Stuart said sarcastically. "Can you at least tell me where you got this information?"
"It's part of a massive conspiracy gone awry," Bloggs explained. "The Chinese government engineered the plague to unleash it in the Himalayas. They created an antidote so that they could instantly cure the people infected and make the Tibetan people accept them as their saviors."
"And do you have this antidote?" Stuart asked. Bloggs nodded.
"Yes," he added, "but the virus has changed a lot; I don't know if it'll work anymore. You see, I was the lead scientist that created the plague in the first place. I didn't want to, but they forced me and...and that's why I have to keep a low profile. There are many people who want me dead."
"There's a lot of that going around," Brian said sardonically. Bloggs pulled a tiny container out of his jean pocket.
"This is the antidote," he said. "I have much more of it. You just need to introduce a small amount of it into the water supply and it will reverse the mutations done by the virus."
"Permenantly?" asked Monty.
"No," said Bloggs. "We haven't developed anything like that yet. So far the only thing we can do is to restore the human form to the bite victim. As you may know, a prolonged, intense exposure to UV rays will reactivate the virus."
"And what if you're lying and that's poison?" Stuart asked angrily. Bloggs looked at him for a moment and then swigged down the entire container.
"Good enough?" he asked. The rest of the room was speechless.
"Marone, have my scientists test this 'antidote,'" Stuart bellowed, "and find out who this man is!"
Shimmings was pulled back up to the top of the cliff where Jansen and the others were. However, as soon as he got to the top, Shimmings pulled out his gun and shot Jansen in the shoulder.
"I'll kill you all!" Shimmings shouted. The officers all pointed their guns at him, but Shimmings continued firing away anyway. He walked backwards laughing, but stepped right off the edge of the cliff. The police watched as the mad doctor fell down the deep abyss, screaming all the way to his violent death...
"Your scientists have completed their studies on the serum," Marone told Stuart. "It's exactly what Mr. Bloggs claimed it was."
"Well, then do what the man said!" Stuart shouted. "We don't have anything to lose, do we?"
"We already did that and it seems to be working," Marone explained swiftly. "The number of were-cases has dropped over sixty percent and people are changing back left and right."
"What of the Alliance?" asked Stuart.
"Well, as you know, Dr. Shimmings was killed in an incident in the Porcupine Mountains earlier today," Marone continued. "It turns out that it was really his, um...determination that was holding the Alliance together. With him gone, the organization has pretty much collapsed. It looks this whole thing will be smooth sailing from here on out."
"Well, done, Marone," Stuart said firmly. "How'd you like to be a major?"
"Really, sir?" Marone asked excitedly. Stuart smiled for about the first time ever.
"We'll see," the general told him.
It was now Christmas Eve and the Harpers, Montgomery, McPherson and Chaleen's mother Samantha were all gathered inside Montgomery's home in the Porcupine Mountains watching Channel 11 News. James Harper, although having been cured, still retained his cat-genes. He was sitting on the couch next to Samantha, eating a small house mouse that he had caught in the basement, and the rest were trying not to get sick. "At least my rat problem has been solved," Montgomery had remarked.
"At long last, the government is proud to report that the so-called 'were-virus' is finally under control," said Chaleen Bright, who was in a brace, but otherwise recovered from her encounter with the Locust. "If you want a, uh, personal view of the events, be sure to buy my new book, Chaleen the Heroine. It tells all about how I found out about this, got turned into a werebat, decided to marry a handsome sergeant and adopted an orphaned boy named Joey Legrand. Oh, in case you're wondering about the virus, well, it's been contained again. Experiments are now being done to change it from a 'were-virus' to simply a vector." Sighing, Montgomery turned off the television and tickled ears of his dog Bunnell.
"I do like how much quieter everything's gotten since yesterday," Margaret said. "Now, I don't want to pass judgment on them too sharply, but those were-animals were a lot of trouble." Brian grinned, but didn't say anything sarcastic.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Dr. Harper got up and walked over to the door and pulled it open. On the other side was none other than a contrite-looking Blake Jones. There was silence as all the people inside Montgomery's house gathered around the door to see the former member of the Alliance.
"I - I don't think there's anything I can say to tell how sorry I am," Jones said eventually. "What - what I did was completely wrong. So - so many people have died and - and now you people don't have a house."
"That's okay," said Audrey, who was quite the forgiving type. "We can all live here."
"As you know, the President has decided to pardon everyone who joined the Alliance," Jones continued.
"Yes, I know," McPherson said bitterly.
"Maybe it's for the best," Montgomery suggested. "After all, the past couple of weeks was a dark and confusing time for many people. I'm sure they all regret the things they did now."
"I suppose," McPherson agreed reluctantly. There was awkward silence for a few more moments.
"Can I come in?" Jones asked. McPherson turned to Montgomery and Monty turned to James.
"Sure," James said casually. With that, Jones walked out of the cold and into the Harpers' new home.
Two glaring yellow eyes watched the two go into the house. As the door closed, a hideous shadow fell across the moonlit snow. Saliva fell from a gaping mouth and teeth shown in the moonlight.
But it wasn't a were-creature.
Rough, scaly, leathery skin was draped over a bony, reptilian frame. A monstrous lizard-like creature approached the cabin, desperate for food and very cold. It had recently escaped its place of origin, a hidden laboratory, and now it was practically starving. And the inhabitants of the house seemed like a good meal.