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The Flock by J. Todd Scott

The Flock by J. Todd Scott PDF

Author: J. Todd Scott

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer


Publish Date: October 1, 2022

ISBN-10: 1662500394

Pages: 429

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface


No one sees the old Sunseeker RV as it rolls to a stop thirty yards from the small house.

Engine idling, headlights off, it lurks in the dark as if regarding the house itself.

Watching, waiting.

In the snow-dusted pines along the road, a hundred roosting crows murmur and rustle, disturbed by the RV’s sudden arrival.

But if they know what’s about to happen next, they keep it to themselves.


Inside the Sunseeker, a blue-eyed woman raises a hand over a kneeling man.

She whispers to him, “How you have fallen from heaven, Morning Star, son of the dawn. You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations. You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens, I will raise my throne above the stars of God, I will sit enthroned on the Mount of Assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon, and I will ascend above the tops of the clouds. I will make myself like the Most High.’”

She touches his shaved head. “But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.” She crosses his heart with her gloved fingers. “Those who see you stare at you. They ponder your fate. Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble? Is this the man who made the world a wilderness? Who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?”

Then the woman leans close and slips the semiautomatic handgun into the man’s grasp.

They got the gun, and all the others like it, three days ago from a novitiate in Oklahoma. Three days before that, the guns were sitting in a police department evidence locker in Guymon, long forgotten, likely never missed.

“You are one of the Seven Archangels, Camael,” she murmurs. “One of the Exalted. When we are done here, you will rise on great wings, for Ascension is finally at hand.”

“And I welcome it,” Camael whispers back, head bowed.

The woman knows this in her heart. She nods in the dark and checks her watch before turning to another young man sitting behind the wheel of the RV. She says to him, “Kill the engine and get the backpacks.” When he hesitates, she raises her voice, insistent. “Now, novitiate.”

This novitiate, Nico, has not yet completed his vows or the Third Circle, has not yet been granted a new name. He’s been useful and loyal so far, but she’s looked into his eyes, caught glimpses of indecision, uncertainty.

His heart still holds so much doubt.

But Nico finally nods his own assent and abandons the driver’s seat, disappearing to the rear of the Sunseeker.

She hears him breathe, feels his unease, a thick swampy fear fueled by the things they will do here and the things yet to come.

Fear breeds faith.

And faith makes all things possible.


Moments later, the woman and two men stand in the snowy dark just beyond the house’s hidden security lights.

Once they’ve moved within twenty feet of the perimeter, those lights will snap brightly on, and eave-mounted cameras will start recording.

Fortunately, they’ve come prepared. In their GoRucks they carry more guns gifted from their allies in Oklahoma, as well as Kobalt bolt cutters, Diamond Tech pistol-grip glass cutters, US military–grade AGM night vision goggles, file-shredding software and scrubbing programs backed up on custom titanium flash drives, and multiple sets of Peerless restraints.

Camael still wields the long-bladed knife she bestowed on him days ago.

The novitiate Nico has zip ties as well as Sabre tactical pepper gel.

And she has a Gamo air rifle slung over her shoulder that she’ll use to shoot out the forward-facing security lights, allowing them to approach under the cloak of night via the unattached garage—where the security system sits—before covering the final distance to the house itself.

Still, they’ll have only a few minutes to breach the door, even though it feels like she’s been waiting a lifetime for this moment.

I was brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.

She unslings the air rifle and kneels in the fresh snow as seven crows circle above, silently eyeing them all.

I am the one who will shake the earth and make kingdoms tremble. I am the one who will make the world a wilderness.

I am the one who will overthrow its cities.

She says to the two men next to her, “I need both alive, but the child matters most.”

I am the one who will not let my captives go home.

She says, “If there must be a great struggle, sacrifice the rest.”

Sacrifice. Penance. Faith.


It was always destined to be this way. Ascension demands penance and faith and fealty and blood and suffering and sacrifice. Few are worthy or have the will to see it through, even as those left behind face their own final moments of grief, despair, fire, ruin.

She smiles at that, at the birds overhead, as she settles the air rifle against her cheek. The cold metal feels good on her skin, where, even untouched, it still burns all the time now. It’s like her blood is constantly aflame, penance for her own faithlessness and failure. She’s been on fire . . . burning in hell . . . for years and years yet welcomes that pain each new day with prayer.

It’s been so long, the blue-eyed woman thinks . . . prays.

But all is as it is and ever will be.

It’s a New Day Dawning.

And it is time . . .


When I get home tonight to find our front door kicked wide open and wild wind and fresh snow still blowing through it, I know the world is coming to an end.

My Rennie is gone, and Noah is dead.

I know in that bruised place in my heart; I know the way only a wife and mother can, although honestly, I’ve never been much of either.

I don’t need to follow that blood-black trail from our porch past the gravel drive, beyond the trees and falling flakes, to know my husband’s dead body is out there in the dark, somewhere.

Yet I can’t turn away from that ominous stain, brightly haloed in my headlights, even as Rennie flies farther and farther from me.

She might as well have real wings now.

My angel . . . my miracle.

Noah’s violent, blood-soaked passage—where he stumbled and fell outside our front door, then crawled hand over fist across the snow after our daughter—is a warning, a message.

A sign.

And if there’s anything I do know a lot about, it’s symbols and signs.

I’ve spent my whole life seeking and searching for them, waiting and worrying about them, running from them.

I steal a few moments to kneel next to that horrible mark: to touch it, trace it with my fingers, the way I traced Noah’s stubbled chin only hours ago. He hated that beard but grew it for me. I was mad when I left earlier, and he was too. Now I’ll never be able to apologize or say I’m sorry again—forever sorry, for so many things—and Noah will soon be snowed over, forgotten, left behind.

Like me.

Because that’s the real message written in bloody snow in front of my ruined house—

It was never about you at all, Sybilla.

It was, and always has been, about Renata.

And the End of the World.


I circle fast on foot to our backyard, where I buried the gun.

It’s dark and dead here, too, shadows holding even more shadows.

The porch lights are off or out, the hidden security lights and the sophisticated alarm system Noah installed for me either cut or disabled, so I use my phone instead and follow its watery glow and try not to cry.

I’ll need another phone soon.

But there are no footprints or boot treads here, no signs of struggle or blood. This snow is fresh and cool and untouched and goes on and on, and part of me just wants to go on and on, too, and never look back. And if it wasn’t for Rennie, I just might lie down here and let the snow cover me. Or go out past the trees to Noah and wrap my arms around him, one last time.

Let this falling snow fall over both of us until it’s over.

All these years I’ve spent waiting for the world to end—searching for the signs, a crazy, inexorable calendar in my head—only to discover now the day’s finally come, as real and unforgiving as Noah’s frosted blood on my fingers, that I was never truly ready at all.

I didn’t see it coming, not like this.

The End doesn’t always start with falling birds or shooting stars or a great flood or a fiery cataclysm. Sometimes it’s just blood in the snow and a dead body in the dark and a missing little girl. Noah, Rennie—my whole world—all gone now.

As if they never existed at all.


I run to Rennie’s old play set, chasing the phone’s pale glow in my hand.

It looms in the dark like a crashed car or plane, shrouded in freshly fallen snow.

The big play set is true Georgia pine, because Noah only wanted the best for our daughter, and he also planted three trees to shade it, one for each of us: Colorado blue spruce, which, over thirty years, can grow more than seventy-five feet high.

Noah used to tell Rennie those trees were alive, watching over our makeshift family, protecting us, remembering us even long after we are gone. And although I thought that was silly, hopelessly romantic, it was sweet and beautiful, too, and honestly, not any crazier than the things I was raised to believe at the Ark.

Noah wanted to be a writer, before he met me. So I helped him plant those trees for Rennie, for us, and then waited to see what birds might flock to them, seeking shelter in their growing branches. None did.

But buried near Rennie’s play set, marked by Bert the Beagle’s old tie-out stake and hidden under the spreading limbs of one of Noah’s trees, is a six-quart plastic Sterilite latching box I stole from the Dollar General, and in a way, that plastic box holds memories too.

My life before Noah.

The Ark of Lazarus.

Ten grand I’ve saved, a dollar at a time. A clean ID I bought off the dark web.

And a Colt semiautomatic handgun.


Now I’m finally crying.

Still crying.

Still digging.

Frantic, as my tears freeze on my face, wrestling that box from the unforgiving ground with the old spade Noah used to plant our summer garden. The spade is heavy and cold in my bare hands, and I can’t feel the wooden handle or even my fingers, but that’s okay; I don’t want to feel anything at all.

The snow tastes sooty, ashes on my tongue, the aftertaste of the massive High West fire that’s been burning across Colorado for weeks now, threatening to jump the Continental Divide.

The entire Southwest is on fire again, flames more than three hundred feet high, higher than our blue spruces will ever grow, although that doesn’t matter anymore.

Nothing does, except Rennie.

Fires are signs, too, sometimes.

And for the second time in my life, the whole world is burning down around me.

I have two days at most to save my daughter and maybe, just maybe, stop the End of the World.

But please, please, understand . . . if it’s a choice between Rennie and the world—

That really isn’t a choice at all.

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