Strange short tale of paper cranes coming to life.
Nobody saw them coming.
They creeped out of the darkness.
Soft sounds from their papery wings blended in to a thousand dreams of healing and good luck.
But these cranes weren’t tied together and hung from the ceiling. These heavy-bodied creatures were free to terrorize the small town, flying close to the ground and striking low, taking out the feet and ankles of the unfortunate wayfarers who first discovered them.
That first night, they took everyone who had the misfortune to be outside by surprise.
The sound of screams and sirens echoed through the streets all night.
It wasn’t something even the darkest part of the interwebs could explain. It was a horror movie come to life in vivid, papery detail.
Nobody had ever seen anything like it. So it must not be real.
The morning news reports cited injuries and interviewed hospitalized victims, but everyone laughed it off as delusional. Tiny papery birds couldn’t move of their own accord and attack humans.
That was ridiculous.
Then, on the second night, when more ambulances were called just after dark, and police reports of more bird attacks came in, photographs and video footage from phone cameras started to show up online.
By the third night, reporters from the entire county set out en masse to investigate. They, too, were attacked. Their credibility and footage helped inform the citizens that it wasn’t safe to go outside after dark. A strict curfew was put out, warning everyone to get home as soon as possible after work and school. The homeless took refuge wherever they could. Animals were kept indoors. The attacks were vicious and didn’t discriminate between rich or poor, old or young, human or beast. All were at risk if they were caught outside.
Even the police didn’t leave their cars unless it was absolutely necessary since no one ever knew where the birds came from, just that they were fast. And mean. And multiplying at an alarming rate.
Despite the fact that they were made from white paper, likely from the devil’s own trees, the birds moved so quickly and erratically, no one could catch one, either. Some crafty teenagers attempted to use fire to get rid of the pestilent paper creatures, but were rewarded with a swarm attacking from behind. No one attempted that again. It was too risky.
Soon, the only way to walk outside after dark was by using stilts since the pernicious cranes only attacked flesh and bone, not wood from their brethren.
They only learned this by trial and error, much to the detriment of the brave souls who were attempting to find solutions to a damning problem. Imagine paper cuts. With beaks. And a taste for blood. It was terrifying.
In time, though, the people came to see the accursed cranes as a strange blessing.
Their town, once filled with apathy, despair, and a broken economy, now had dark magic not found anywhere else.
Scientists came to study the phenomenon.
Tourists came to take selfies.
Priests and shaman and religious leaders of all denominations came to bless the grounds of the town, attempting to cleanse the streets of the tiny hellbeasts.
A local entrepreneur created a Snapchat filter to make it look like the cranes were attacking people’s feet without the need to actually be in the town or attacked. It was a huge moneymaker.
Entire industries boomed up around the origami beasts, as if the phenomenon were an attraction, not an abomination.
And somewhere not too far away, a young woman continued folding her whispered fears into cranes, the darkness surrounding her, leaving her unaware of her army of consequence.