by Armand Rosamilia and Jay Wilburn
Split Between is a serial novel that will appear on both Jay Wilburn’s Patreon page, Patreon.com/JayWilburn , and on Armand Rosamilia’s Patreon page, Patreon.com/ArmandRosamilia . The odd numbered chapters will be on Jay Wilburn’s page on the 1st of every month and the even number chapters will appear on Armand Rosamilia’s page on the 15th of every month. Wilburn’s chapters follow the strange events in Devil’s Fork, South Carolina from the perspective of Jenna Colby. Rosamilia’s chapters follow the same events from Eric Colby’s point of view.
You can enjoy the novel a few different ways. You can become a $1 patron of both pages and read all the chapters. We highly recommend this approach. You can also be a patron of one of the pages and follow the story from one character’s perspective. It works either way, but the fullest experience is reading all the chapters.
As you decide where to spend your dollars, you can enjoy chapters 2 and 4 from Armand Rosamilia in May and June of 2021 for free and you can enjoy chapters 1, 3, 5, and 7 from Jay Wilburn when they drop from May through August.
Check out the master list with links to all the chapters as they drop twice a month.
published (June 15, 2021)
by Armand Rosamilia
Eric was two car-lengths behind the detective when she began slowing down for a red light up ahead.
The sooner I can get this over with, the better, so they can find my wife, Eric thought. I should probably explain my mannerisms. Give them examples. Have them call Kyle to explain it so they could better understand.
His parents had tested him at an early age. While he wasn’t on the spectrum (as far as the doctors could tell) and ‘different,’ Eric was special. He had an eidetic memory, remembering things he’d seen once by storing a visual cue in his brain. He remembered names, places and things without fail. He could also remember dates which wasn’t part of eidetic memory. Even as a child, he showed no real emotion. He knew his parents were worried he’d begin pulling wings off of flies and eventually getting around to killing the cats and dogs before eventually skinning women to make clothing from their bodies like Edward Gein had done.
Eric was more comfortable with numbers. Facts and figures. The way things worked. Knowledge, too. He started reading children’s books at three, adult novels by six and lengthy textbooks at nine. He read at such a rapid pace, he’d read everything the small school library had to offer. His parents, fearful of the town talking, had denied Eric the ability to skip grades. He’d had to endure a nightmare childhood being the outcast. Bullied and picked on by the other children, who called him a freak. In college he’d gotten his five-year undergraduate degree, his B.Arch, in three years. He’d taken so many classes at once the school had tried to stop him. He never missed a class, never scored anything lower than perfect on a test, and only left his dorm room for food and work. Eric didn’t need to study because he’d read every architectural book available years ago and memorized them. He had skill, too.
Looking at a blank sheet of paper, Eric could envision a structure and then draw it to reality in half the time it took others in his class, and later in his first job.
Kyle, who’d barely gotten a passing grade, had fronted the money for their own firm a couple of years later. He had the money and Eric had the skill. It was a perfect match, and they’d done quite well. So well, in fact, when Eric had met Jenna, he’d made it perfectly clear she was not to work. She’d be his stay-at-home wife. Dinner on the table promptly at six o’clock. The house tidy. Laundry done, his shirts pressed.
Eric glanced up when he felt before seeing a shadow from above, moving across the sky. An airplane or a hawk, perhaps, too low to the ground. Swooping down. Maybe it saw a mouse or someone’s pet cat or dog loose.
It struck the detective’s car in front of his. Without a sound or a cry. One second Eric, still deep in his own thoughts about the past, idly tracked the shadow as it came across his vehicle and then the pavement.
The light had turned green at the exact moment it had knocked into the detective’s car, moved it several feet into oncoming traffic.
It. Not a hawk. Not an airplane. An it. Black wings, a thick black featherless body. A dozen eyes on thin stalks on the elongated face, like a deformed coyote. Four sets of legs ending in talons, which began to rip through the top of the car roof like it was a hot knife through butter.
Screams all around Eric. Car crashes.
It pulled the detective from her car, kicking and screaming, and flew off. In seconds it was done.
Eric was about to get out of his car when he was rear-ended and pushed forward. He ducked his head and closed his eyes a second before another vehicle shot into the intersection and t-bones his vehicle, spinning him twice.
More screaming. More crunching of cars as the road filled with witnesses to what had happened.
But what had happened? Eric shook his head. The windows had shattered, his hair filled with glass. He sat up, expecting another crash. Everyone was still, eyes to the sky.
“Did you see it?”
“What was it?”
“Is this really happening?”
People were talking all around Eric now, and as he got out of the car he could see something odd on the horizon. Small black dots. A string of them. He had no words. He pointed.
“It’s coming back. There are more of them!”
Eric pushed past a couple of women standing dumbly watching, knowing they’d be dead in a few minutes if they didn’t run. He weighed the odds in his head to help them and decided it was worth the risk. He hooked both of their arms and began running. At first they resisted, drawn to the sight in the sky.
“Run or we’re all dead,” Eric finally managed, his words sounding foreign. As if he hadn’t spoken in days. As if he was caught in a dream, with the edges unpolished and the foreground shifting unnaturally.
He hardly ever dreamed, and when he did he knew what was happening: his mind was sorting things real and imagined into compartments for future use. If he had to deal with a particularly annoying client, he’d dream about getting through the project and what might need to be done. Scenarios until his mind was satisfied he knew what to do.
Eric had never had wet dreams as a kid, or imagined hanging out with baseball players or rock stars. He never fantasized about things that weren’t important. Jenna had once confided in Eric when they’d begun dating about her daydreams and what she wanted to do in life. His response had been accurate but insensitive.
“Stop wasting time daydreaming. Either do it or don’t. Work it out quickly or move on to something important,” he’d told her.
Jenna had stopped telling him about her dreams. He knew he’d messed up. Eric needed to find his wife. But first he needed to live to do it.
The shouts from behind, on the street where he’d been standing, told him not to look back. Keep running and help the women, even though they were slowing him down.
If he could get behind a building and find an open door, maybe they had a chance.
Both women were alternatively screaming and babbling, trying to understand what was happening.
“Please calm down and be quiet,” Eric said. “They will hear and kill us.”
His words made them scream even more.
Eric was twenty feet from the closest home when he was wrenched backward, his arm socket on fire.
He felt his feet lift the ground, kicking wildly.
The woman to his left was staring at him. A dead stare. Unseen eyes. Face frozen in pain. A thick claw dug into her skull and the tip pushing from her neck.
Drop her. Let go. It’s carrying you away, Eric thought. He couldn’t act. He was indecisive for the first time he could remember. This wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real.
The other woman screamed from below Eric, who turned to see another creature, this one like the original but a dullish gray with tentacles protruding from the shoulders, slashing at her.
Eric let go of the dead woman and closed his eyes, knowing he was too high already. In the least, he was going to break an arm or a leg. Maybe a combination of them. He’d released awkwardly and couldn’t stop his body from spinning.
As always, his mind began projecting percentages of what could possibly happen and the pain. He knew he had a low pain threshold. Even though he’d been beaten up almost daily as a child by school bullies, he never toughened up. Eric never ignored the pain. He couldn’t take a punch in the face and shrug it off.
In the safety of his own room, Eric wailed into his pillow. There was never going to be a time where he took karate classes or started lifting weights or paid a bigger bully to protect him. He was going to endure years of torment and torture. Someday he’d get his revenge by living a better life than any of them could imagine.
Except, real life doesn’t work that way. Most of the elementary school bullies had grown into the football jock high school bullies, knocking him around out of habit. A couple had gone on to professional football careers and made millions, others had inherited a family business and had a big house, hourglass figure wife and doting children. Even their dogs were well-trained and happy.
Eric was allergic to dogs and cats. He sneezed uncontrollably around them. Jenna always wanted a pet, but it was impossible.
The sneezing began as soon as Eric landed, not on the hard unyielding ground, but on something with blood and bones and oily skin.
He’d somehow fallen onto one of the creatures standing as it took strips of flesh off of one of the women.
It never made a sound when Erc hit, but it began hopping around as if hurt. It fell over and turned.
The large eye was filled with animal cunning but no real menace. It was a predator and nothing more. No intelligence behind the lens. A hunger. Raw power.
Eric wasn’t injured. His legs were shaky and his head hurt, but otherwise he was fine. Except for the sneezing. He tried to back away and the creature now stood, towering over him, the woman forgotten.
It took a step on unsure legs, shaking its head. The monster had been stunned when Eric had fallen on it. Maybe it would give him time to run away. Escape.
The creature flapped its wings, the air fetid from the stench. It smelled like a dozen barnyard animals, wet dogs and rotting meat. Eric gagged between sneezes.
And then a dark shadow covered the ground, getting bigger. Eric knew he was going to be attacked by a second creature. This was all too much. The bullies were back. He was going to be shoved into a locker, his lunch money taken, his books tossed in the urinal.
The creature opened its mouth, showing rows and rows of sharp teeth. The breath of it was a physical force, knocking Eric back a few steps.
Then it was gone.
Eric looked up to see a much larger winged creature, this one mottled purple and orange skin, like a fifty-foot wingspan bat with the head of an elephant. The trunk ended in a set of spikes, the tusks forming into tentacles.
This new monstrosity had lifted the other creature into the air and away.
Eric stared into the sky as the creature disappeared over another building. More strange monsters roamed the sky, and a couple might even be circling Eric, he realized with horror.
The woman was dead. What little flesh remained hung off of her bones.
Eric ran, trying to keep his breathing normal. He’d stopped sneezing, which was good. Instead of running down the middle of the street, which he saw too many people doing, he devised a simple plan: station to station. Porch to porch, large tree to large tree. Always cover from above. Take his time so he didn’t get caught.
More screams around him, as more people were picked off by the death from above.
Even though he hadn’t driven far from home, it took him two hours to arrive safely. The screams had faded away on the wind. He felt alone. His front door was open, no police cars in the driveway.
Eric went inside and locked the door, knowing the lock would do little to keep such a monster out. He went through the house, careful not to step in and spread Jenna’s blood, locking windows and doors, curtains and blinds closed. Lights out. No noise. Nothing to alert the creatures.
His mind tried once again to process what was happening. It made no sense. Had Jenna been taken by a winged abomination? Eric shook his head. They were too big to get inside the house. Something else had happened and it might not even be related to her plight.
Eric knew what needed to be done. He’d need a cooling down period. Weigh the odds. See what else happened in the next two to four hours. Watch the sky.
Clean up all of the blood, which would give him a small distraction.
For the first time since high school, when he’d been tossed off of the bleachers during gym class by bullies and his nose broken, Eric Colby began to cry.