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Watched by Embers[]

             You wake up early after a long night of writing a paper about the local wildlife of Pennsylvania. It is about how non-native Pennsylvanian animals have somehow been attracted to the area by some unknown force. 
           You wash your face, and as you look up at yourself you notice your tired eyes bags drooping like warped wood before it cracks. As you head downstairs, the last step’s groaning nearly masks the sound of a pattering emanating from outside of the house. 
           You walk through the kitchen to the front door, passing through the living room where you open the window. A cool breeze wafts through smelling faintly of coal. You approach the oak front door. It is closed but not locked. You lock it, and, as you do, you look out into the darkness and see a figure quickly moving across the grass. It’s probably just the local raccoon that terrorizes the neighborhood, but it looks, even in the darkness, larger and lower to the ground. 
           You go to the kitchen and pour a glass of orange juice which you slowly and shakily drink. Suddenly the coal smell is back, and this time it is much stronger. A canary trills from outside which is odd since canaries are not native to Pennsylvania. There is a loud crash upstairs.
           You follow the noise to your bedroom. Among broken shards of window glass there is fine black coal dust that seems to have a faint red tinge on the edge that forms a trail of something entering your home. This reminds you of the strange events that happened in the 1930’s and 1940’s relating to the anthracite coal mines.  
             From another room comes a trill that makes your blood run cold.  A twisted bird talon made of raw anthracite punches through the wall turning plaster to dust in seconds. It enters the room as you quickly hide under the bed. It has the head like that of a canary but larger on a body composed of decaying bird flesh and coal growths erupting out in jagged spurs. It walks on six contorted bird talons. Gray eyes look around the room for a few minutes before turning towards where you are hiding. It raises a weak, fragile looking claw that slashes the mattress deeply with shocking force before smashing through the wooden frame.
             You can feel the hair on your scalp move as this creature lands with a thud right above you. You rush out from under the bed frame on the side closest to the door. It turns, noticing your figure bolting quickly from the room.  
            The claws elongate like the claws of a panther extending to full size. Thunk. Swiftly a jagged bolt of anthracite lodges itself into the door just inches away from your head as you rush out of the room. 
            You rush towards the front door when suddenly you realize something: The closer you get to the door the more a secondary smell of something thick and sulfurous starts to fill your nose. A coal bolt lodges itself in your heel with a sickening thud, and, as it does, the fight is sapped from you as the smell of sulfur fills your lungs making your eyes water. As you slip from consciousness, a man shaped figure stands over you, black as glinting coal with two deep piercing red eyes. 
           The bird’s eyes turn red and its body shrivels back into the form of a normal canary–covered in coal dust. The man-shaped coal puts the bird back in a red cage made of a coal-like substance that smells strongly of the same sulfur as the man. 
           You awake in the mines. Before you, the man shaped coal puts the bird back in the cage on a wall of various-sized cages. The wall of cages includes other animals such as frogs, snakes, and even a bear all unconscious and covered in coal. Among this collection is a man and some objects including a small obsidian chunk in the shape of a miniature monolith.
           The man-shaped coal puts you in a cage, breaks off one of his fingers, crushes it and the finger dust swirls as if caught in an unnatural wind covering your body with a glowing red light. You feel yourself slipping from consciousness again, and then you're gone. Your body is no longer yours. 
           As the cage door in front of you swings closed, a few particles of the dust swirl onto a flat placard above the cage door with the numbers “2016” appearing in glowing red.





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