Waking Nightmares

Waking Nightmares by Christopher Golden

Book: Waking Nightmares by Christopher Golden Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christopher Golden
we’ll be more than happy to set you all up with replacements for your drinks.”
    A beautiful girl with caramel skin came over with an open container of milk and whispered something in the burly man’s ear. Amber knew from his expression that it wasn’t good news.
    “You’re shitting me,” he said, frowning as he took the milk container from the girl.
    He took a whiff of the open container and made a face, holding it away from him. With all of the customers looking on, he turned and dumped the milk into the sink. It came out in sludgy chunks and he let the container fall into the sink.
    “Change of plans,” he said, looking back at his customers. “People who don’t like black coffee may need to get refunds.”
    Amber turned to Ben and fixed him with a glare. “Are you still going to try to tell me this isn’t a weird day?”
    Before he could reply, a loud thump echoed through Starbucks, silencing the complaining masses. Something had hit the plate glass window at the front of the store. Everyone in the place seemed to be on pause, looking expectantly at that window, but there was no one outside and no indication of the source of the noise—just gray skies and a light sprinkle of rain. People started to turn away, but Amber took a step nearer the front door.
    Something dark struck the plate glass and she jerked back, startled.
    “Okay, this day is officially weird,” Ben said.
    “Ya think?” Amber snapped.
    The window had a long crack in it now, and she worried that further impacts might shatter it. But curiosity drew her forward. She thought she knew what she had seen but wanted confirmation. Others followed her, moving toward the front of the store. Through the glass, she could see two dead birds on the sidewalk outside—one a crow, and one a fat seagull.
    “Over there,” Ben said, pointing to the left, up Eastwind Avenue. “There are more.”
    And there were. Amber counted at least a dozen dead birds on the sidewalks on either side of the street. An old Volkswagen Jetta parked right in front of Starbucks had a dead pigeon on its hood, nestled in a fresh dent.
    A muffled thump reached them, and Amber glanced over at the façade of Holland’s Flowers, watching a dead gull drop to the ground. The front window of the florist shop had a spiderweb of cracks in it. One more blow and it would shatter.
    “What is this?” someone whispered behind her.
    “The fucking End Times, or something,” another voice muttered.
    Amber ignored them. She leaned forward and craned her neck, looking up into the cloudy sky. The light drizzle continued to fall. Against the gray storm clouds, hundreds of dark, winged figures flew in circles. Then some of them started to dive.
    “Back up,” Ben said, pulling her a few feet away from the window. Stumbling, she almost shrugged him off before she realized he meant to protect her in case another bird hit the window and smashed it.
    “Jesus, look at that!” said the businessman who’d been the first to complain about his coffee.
    But they were already looking. Amber watched in silent amazement as birds began to rain down on Eastwind Avenue. Sparrows, crows, gulls, and pigeons dove from the sky, darting with unrelenting speed into the rain-slicked windows of the restaurants and shops all up and down the street. The front window of the Scarlet Letter Bookshop imploded with a crash they could hear half a block away at Starbucks, even with the door closed. Birds hit parked cars, cracking windshields. For thirty or forty seconds it went on and on, hundreds of birds flying straight into windows and walls and cars.
    “They’re aiming,” Amber muttered to herself.
    “What?” Ben asked, whispering so that only she could hear.
    Wide-eyed, she looked at him. “None of them are hitting the street. Did you notice that? Yeah, they fall on the ground when they die, but it isn’t just some fucked-up bird suicide. It’s like they’re pissed off and they’re attacking.”
    “That’s

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