Beyond the lurking shadows of
darkness, planted deep within the confines of hatred, fear arose and came to
life. Just a shadow for now, a tenebrous form lurking on the border of thought,
but a bump in the night, a startle, a refrained scream, or a small gasp would
give growth to this ancient seed.
Its breath was but a ragged whisper. A harsh underlying of the vicious beast that was to come. It lingered for now in the darkness, a tiny inadequate killer. A passing shoe could easily smash it into the soft soil below, leaving it an unseen mangled nothing, but there would be no such luck for the unfortunate ones this night. The beast was small for now, barely a thought, but it would grow. Fear would feed it power and in time, it would feed itself!
Its small back arched upward in a spasm of pain as new growth shot unexpectedly through its small frame. A shriek from somewhere inside the camp had produced a fresh wave of fear. Small teeth popped out and a miniscule amount of blood dripped from the things mouth. The taste of blood, even its own, brought a wicked snarl to its tiny face. This sight may have been considered cute, such a small creature trying to look so menacing. But latter, this same snarl would freeze somebody in their tracks.
Its hair began to grow. No longer did it shiver when the wind floated over its naked flesh. The tiny beast cocked its head towards the crackling flames. It stared at the group of campers and anger welled within its small frame. Its beady yellow eyes found nothing but hatred. Bloodshed was long overdue for this creature. Saliva dripped from its tiny maw as the thought of human flesh flirted through its hungry mind, it growled, low and guttural. Feed me it thought, feed me my power and let this feast begin.
“That’s not funny, damn it.” Cindy backpedaled as her boyfriend jumped out from behind the tent.
Another growth spurt surged through the creature. This time its claws popped out. Small razor like daggers protruded from its curled feet. It grimaced in the pain of its growth. The time would come soon!
“Now open this and bring it to me, jerk off.” She slammed a wine cooler into her boyfriend’s stomach and walked back to the fire.
“I was just playing around, baby.” Jimmy took a swig of his beer and smiled. She was so hot when she was pissed.
“Well keep playing around and see if you get any play latter.” Her blonde hair swooshed, as she mockingly turned away with her own smile.
The beast felt its first twinge from hunger pain and new that it must hunt to sustain its growing size. It turned its attention from the humans, for now, and began to hunt. It pounced upon a passing spider and sank its new claws deep into its prey’s back. Next, now twice the size since the first kill, a mouse squealed in pain.
Its bloodied maw turned to face the campers. Soon it thought, as again it curled in the pain of growth. The mouse had lived long enough to send a great wave of pleasant fear into the beast.
The promise of larger game came a short while later as a horror story passed over the campfire.
“Oh my God, that’s so creepy. There’s no way that happened in these woods, Jimmy, you’re such a jerk.” Susie shot him a look that spoke its own words.
“Control your boyfriend, Cindy?” Rena turned her head and glanced nervously into the darkening woods, huddling closer to her boyfriend.
The visual of a masked killer stalking the darkness tripled the beast’s size.
Now a rabbit fell prey. A slow kill this time, letting the squeal of the downed prey feed the beast, as well its flesh. It grew as it ate; the pounding of a dying heartbeat and the fear from the campers surged into its body. The pain of growth ravaged the beast. The rabbit quivered and kicked twice more before the beast sank its teeth deep into the rabbit’s belly and pulled back a mouthful of fresh meat. A steamy pile of guts spilled from its torn abdomen.
“What the hell is that, Brad?” Susie pulled herself close to her boyfriend, hugging his arm, staring wide-eyed into the woods.
The beast grew again as it ripped at the flesh of its meal. Its back rippled with newfound muscle as fresh strength poured into its growing form.
“Sounds like some poor animal is being ripped apart by a bear, or maybe a wolf!” he added for fun as the pretty blonde pulled in closer. Oh yea, he thought, tonight is going to be good.
Sounds more like a rabbit getting squeezed by a snake. I heard that same sound once in Missouri when I was a kid. A black snake had a rabbit in its coils. Kind of felt bad for the little fellow, but hey that’s life, isn’t it?”
“Dude, David, forever the philosopher. Cheers to you, brother.” Jimmy raised his beer and farted.
Brad laughed and a spray of beer spurted from his mouth. “Good one, you sow!”
“You’re such a pig, Jimmy. I don’t even know what I’m doing with you.” Cindy smacked his arm as she pulled away from her boyfriend. “That better not stink.”
Rena looked up at David with a small smile as she shook her head. Jimmy had been like that since they were all kids. He was always the jokester. His frivolous attitude had been what attracted all of them to him in the first place. You couldn’t help but to love the guy. Even the principal of their junior high had liked Jimmy and that was after he blew a urinal apart with two M-80s. He always took things too far and was always searching for ways to go farther. Good old Jimmy, not a cruel intention in his whole body. Life was for laughing.
“Alright then, here’s to Jimmy.” David raised his beer and began to laugh.
Within seconds they were all laughing so hard that their sides started to ache and their cheeks were hurting.
The beast cowered from the sounds within the encampment. It jumped upon a log and growled at the scene. Its body stiffened as it shrank in size, just a little, but enough to anger the beast. It darted into the woods, away from the sounds, away from its prey. It would return soon enough and then it would dispel its rage upon those fools.
Stalking the night, eyes as keen as a hawk. The woods belonged to the beast now. He had grown to the size of a large dog. His muscles rippled with each step as he stole through the dark paths of the forest. None could defy him now, and to prove that point the prey that he now stalked would be brutally destroyed and used for bait to lure out the hungry.
Another formidable predator stalked this night as well. The beast sensed the pride in this other’s mind. As well he sensed the hunger in its belly. Each of these traits would bring the other’s challenge for the downed prey. Soon the scent of blood would feed the others courage even more.
The beast had sniffed out the cougar while tracking a deer. He had decided on one more kill and then he would move back to the humans, but now the thought of a challenge encouraged yet another kill; after all, death had walked side by side with fear for, well – eternity!
Anger welled inside the beast as volatile as a simmering volcano, as eminent as death. The heartbeat of the deer, the fidgeting movements, the nervous glances all intensified the anger within the beast.
Thump- thump. Thump- thump. He could feel the heartbeat within his own, they had become one. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Closer still the beast stalked. Soon that irritating sound would cease and instead of flowing, that blood would spill!
The ears’ of the deer perked as it shifted uncomfortable beneath the weight of paranoia in which that of such a fair God, the beast thought with a mordant sneer, blesses these delicate beasts.
The deer’s child like eyes scanned the perimeter of the clearing in which it fed. Innocence and trepidation gazed out at the darkness of the night. The look of a toddler could be found within this gaze, but no such thoughts crossed the mind of the beast, only desire, only need, the need to suffocate the life from its prey and feast upon its flesh and blood.
Close enough! The beast shot from its concealment like a lightning bolt searing across the night sky, closing in on its target.
The deer tensed, its muscles tightening in preparation to flee from the grip of the predator. A cold panic exploded in the deer as it bolted. An escape must be found! Hooves twisted out their path of evasion tearing the dirt asunder.
The beast grew wildly within the seconds of this soon to be fatal charge. Its back arched upward, raising the beast upon its hind legs. Pain ignited within the beast as its entire body restructured, bones snapped out of and back into place. Its flesh stretched and tore as it made room for this new form. Its face elongated and its fangs ripped at its upper jaw as they reached their final length. The beast roared out in the agony of its final transformation. Once again this pain brought anger and the beast continued its charge.
A fleeting moment of hope, the attacker stumbled in its charge. An escape would be found. The deer’s heartbeat calmed as it darted for safety. It had survived the initial charge, as it had in the past. But this sense of security was quickly dispelled as razor like claws ripped into its hindquarters.
A new wave of panic rushed upon the deer. How could this be? What sort of predator was this that could renew its charge with such quickness? The deer startled, its big eyes blinking in terror as it bolted. Astonished again by the speed of this predator it took a shot to the head and stumbled from the ferocity of the attack. Quickly it righted itself and attempted to dodge off and flee, but as it bounced to the side it again felt the predator’s claws. A hot gash tore open on its front leg and again it stumbled to the ground. With haste, as to avoid the teeth of the predator it bounded back up and darted. This time claws tore at its hind leg and again its escape was delayed as its buttocks slammed against the ground, sliding across the grass.
The deer did not think that it would be able to rise from this attack, but suddenly its senses snapped alive as the scent of blood filled its nostrils, its own blood! Grappling with fear, waiting for the ending grasp it raised again and bolted. New hope came to life as it bounded to the right and broke into a dead run. Momentary was this hope as the claws of the predator drug it down again with a pain filled strike to its hind leg.
Desperation turned to despair as its blood flowed freely into the night. The scent was over powering and again a new wave of fear struck at the timid animal. Its heartbeat was so fast that it seemed it would leap right out of its body, but survival was instinct and again its feet found the power to flee. Once again to no prevail!
The predator slashed out at the last unopened leg and took down its kill. The deer’s terror filled eyes looked up into the eyes of death and new that this was no ordinary predator. Instinct would not be enough to survive this night. It was trapped, downed by its attacker, no defenses, its legs were ripped and torn and inches from its neck loomed the teeth of coming death. It kicked out once more as the teeth closed in and sealed its fate. Its last thought was at how slowly these teeth closed in. Death, for this animal, came as a comforting blanket to end the coldness of the night.
The beast enjoyed his kill as he closed in slowly on the frightened prey’s neck. When the heartbeat went silent and the fear went dead he ripped out its throat and stared into the night.
This would not be his greatest conquest by far, he decided, but none-the-less enjoyable. He had come as the hunter many times before, his form taking place as the times saw fit. Since the coming of time mankind had had always offered his fondest memories, tonight would prove no different.
A low guttural growl emitted from behind the beast, a warning loomed in this throaty call. The beast was being weighed. A challenge was at hand. Another predator roamed this night and hunger filled its belly with courage. Soon, thought the beast, his claws would replace that courage with fear!
The beast smiled a wicked grin from within as he hunched down to appear small and afraid. He welcomed this challenge as he always had, eager and ready for the chaos and the bloodshed to begin. He had hunted in this form before, one of his favorites. Taken from the days of old and mixed with the days of new. On all fours he was a formidable predator, but he could rise upon his hind legs and deal out the hand of death just as well. He was two hundred pounds of death, shaggy, mangy and ready to kill.
The cougar closed in with another growl, a brusque warning for this intruder to back off.
The beast cringed closer to the ground and slinked back away from the kill.
Ten feet now and again the warning growl came, this time deeper and with a slash of wicked claws. The cougar sniffed at the night drawing in the scent of the fresh spilled blood. This scent enticed the cat. A groan rolled from its empty belly, feeding it the confidence needed to claim this kill as its own. The ever-expanding encroachment of civilization had shrunk the hunting grounds and lessened the prey. Now hunger had made want and want would make it die!
Five feet now, the two beast stared each other down, one bold, hungry and confident and the other feigning his weakness and fear. After all he was fear, he knew quite well the appearance of, and as well the smell of fear!
The cat closed in on the downed prey and again sniffed the alluring scent of the fresh blood. Now the hungry cat was close enough to taste the meal that waited.
Low and unformidable the beast moved to the left, now appearing as a simple menacing form to be dealt with at leisure, a swift brandishing of claws and seemingly this mangy intruder would skirt back into the forest.
The large cat growled again as it sank its teeth into the warm flesh of the kill. It was apparent that the cat had not come to fight, but only to claim the downed prey as its own. It now didn’t even seem bothered that the beast stayed this close.
Pleased with his deception the beast began closing the gap moving in slow and threatening. Immediately the cat responded with an old friend of this ancient beast, anger!
With lightning quickness the big cat pounced over the deer, covering the four feet of distance with ease as it launched its attack. It would swat away this insignificant dog and get back to its meal.
The beast charged in meeting the attack with an unrivaled quickness of his own, easily thwarting the sharp claws of the cougar’s attack and swatting aside the head that brought in the wicked teeth that sought the others throat.
The cougar hesitated now, she had felt the power of the beast, but again the fresh kill gave her courage and again she attacked. She would have to be more careful with this one, she thought to herself, as she felt razor sharp claws rake across her chest.
Now the beast was rewarded with fear as the big cat roared in pain and back stepped away from its challenge. Fear, beautiful fear, had imbued itself into the mind of this bitch. Now it was the beast’s turn to attack.
The cat was attacked with ferocity it had never seen before. The beast closed the gap fast coming in with nothing less than death as teeth and claws tore into the night. The blood that spewed from several wounds splashed its archaic design upon the ground. The big cat went down and would rise no more as claws and teeth found their final mark. Both the jugular and heart were pierced, one was torn out and the other was forever silenced.
The beast ripped at the hindquarter of the deer, feasting upon his kill until sated and then casually he slipped back into the trails of the night.
Thoughts lingered in his ancient mind as he sauntered through the forest, memories of the past, centuries of old. What was time to a creature like himself? Was life loosing some of its grandeur? He remembered the times before when he so enjoyed his life. He would have to find a way to rejuvenate that old youth that once took so much pleasure in these rendezvous with life, and in the end – with death!
Suddenly, as it always came, a cold uninvited breeze twisted through his old soul, seemingly with a morbid grin, leaving behind a cold shiver that rattled his spine. Another ancient had just passed by as if to say hello. This visitor he had felt many times before. This one was his oldest acquaintance, but a hard one to call a friend.
The shiver was brought by death on his way to claim lost souls. He had a way of slipping in when least expected and he always stayed until the finale, when the last drop of blood had spilled, when the last cry fell silent, when future kings were denied their dreams, when angels got their wings. Yes, this one was a hard one to call a friend, no matter how long they had known one another, no matter how much time they had spent together in pursuit of their passions, and on this night, this would not be the last time he would feel that old presence.
The beast shivered again and shook his head as if to dispel the aura of the being that he had just encountered. He then set his thoughts aside and headed back to the humans.
Lightning split the sky as he neared the campground and fear rolled into town, washing him with its sweetness, bathing him with its pureness. Yes, this was the reason for his existence. The euphoric fear of the human mind, alive with power it washed through him in a torrent of desire. More he thought as wicked cravings filled his mind.
He sank his claws into the bark and pulled himself easily into the tree. Ten feet up he found the perfect perch and crouched upon the branch. This was the spot, just outside the glow of the campfire he waited. Dark clouds masked the sky, swirling their deceptive shapes, harboring the coming storm. Thunder boomed in the distance and then rolled lazily across the sky. Someone jumped in the campground, someone’s heart pounded in their chest, a cry bounced off the trees and echoed into the forest. The beast rolled back his head and stared into the dark sky, soaking in the sweetness of the fear.
“Eight, nine, ten.” Another bolt of lightning splintered the night. “Oh yea baby, there’s a storm coming tonight.” Jimmy threw his hands into the air and let out his famous party howl. Only he seemed to forget about his fresh beer that splashed all over Cindy.
“Ahh, great. You ass monkey!” Cindy jumped to her feet to ward off the flying beer spray and as she turned she screamed!
With his heart thumping he jumped up. The scream had caught him off guard, giving him a good startle. “What is it baby, its okay. It’s just the lightning.” Jimmy stood comforting his girlfriend. He knew her well and this was definitely a fright filled scream.
“There’s something out there! I saw something in that tree!” She pointed into the blackness of the night, her hand trembling in fear, her voice breaking.
Only darkness could be found beyond the edge of the glow from the campfire, only dancing shadows bouncing in unison with the crackling flames. After the lightning diminished it was like a bulb burning out on a kid’s nightlight. Looking into your room but finding nothing but the uninviting darkness. Staring into emptiness, searching for movement, waiting for the boogeyman to make his move! But everyone knew that there was no such thing as the boogeyman. Everyone accept the boogeyman that is, and this boogeyman was on the move. He didn’t want to ruin his fun; after all, he was just beginning to enjoy the pleasantness of the fear.
They all stood together now, comforting their friend and silently hoping that nothing more than imagination lurked beyond the night. The girls stood closely huddled together hugging the frightened one while the brave men spread out to search the encampment.
Another brilliant flash of lightning tore across the sky causing everyone to jump in response. Cindy quivered beneath her growing fear and her friends pulled her closer. “Don’t worry, Cindy. It’s just the creepiness of the storm that’s got you on edge.” Rena comforted her friend, but she too stared into the woods with uneasy glances. The lightning was a long one and it lit up the dark woods as it splintered and cracked across the sky. “See, nothing there.”
“Yea, sweetie, don’t you worry. There’s nothing out there that can hurt us.” It was Susie’s turn to tell an unknowing lie. There was something out there and it was going to hurt them.
The thunder answered a short time later, a shorter span between this one and the last one. The booming response to the lightning caused everyone to jump as it rumbled through his or her body. It seemed to reach all the way down to the bones as it rolled across the heavens.
Brad jumped shortly after the lightning; he could have sworn he saw something move. No, he thought to himself, it was just the odd light of the storm playing tricks on his mind. His heartbeat calmed a little, but a slight bit of uneasiness stayed behind. He turned back to the campfire while calmly reassuring himself that he saw nothing, but knowing deep down inside, that little part of ones self that is so hard to truly believe in, that there was something out there.
“Nothing over here,” Brad yelled out as he made his way closer to the comfort of the fire.
“Looks good over here as well,” David answered in reply.
“You guys, I know I saw something in that tree out there. It wasn’t my imagination.” Cindy had finely stopped trembling and was starting to doubt her self. Her mind had begun its work, building the barrier of doubt, constructing the false reassurance needed to placate her concerns.
“It was probably just a squirrel or some other harmless forest creature. The lightning just made it appear bigger. A trick of the night.” David, as always, was there to reassure.
The beast cringed at the sound of that voice.
Cindy nodded her head in agreement and her fear began to subside. “You’re probably right, David. This is a way creepy storm.”
“Ahh!” Jimmies’ scream erupted from the edge of the woods causing everyone, even the beast, to jump. “It’s a killer chipmunk! Get it off of me!” He ran wildly into the campfire and hit the ground in a roll almost in tears from laughing so hard. “Its after my penis, somebody stop it.”
“It’s totally going to be hungry after that small of a meal,” smirked Suzie as she shook her head and turned away.
“You are such an asshole, James.” Rena spat out her last word in sarcasm. Everyone knew that Jimmy hated being called James. That’s what his mother had called him as a child and still to this day insists upon calling him that when she has a disagreement with him.
“I’ll help you, dude.” Brad dove on top of his friend and grabbed at his crotch. “We’re too late. It’s gone.”
“Get off me, you freak. Help me David. Brads out of the closet and after my balls.”
“You’re on your own, bro.” David laughed and turned back towards the fire throwing another couple of logs at the hungry blaze. “You all right, Cindy?”
“Yea, I’ll be fine. Thanks.” She barely jumped out of the way of the two still rolling around on the ground as she made her way back to her seat. “When you two are done being gay I could use another beer, James!”
“Me two, bonehead,” broke in Rena.
“Make mine a wine cooler.” Suzie added.
Jimmy jumped up, after one more desperate grab by Brad that is, and hugged Cindy, planting a big kiss on her lips. “Sorry, baby, but you know me.”
“Yes I do, baby, you can’t help yourself.” She returned his kiss by licking his face and pushing him away. Go get my beer looser.” She had begun to feel foolish now, for surely she had seen nothing. The barrier was fully constructed now. She was safe, but nonetheless when the next blast of lightning tore across the midnight sky she closed her eyes to silence her fears.
“Three, four, five.” Boom! “Closer still. Man it’s going to start raining cats and dogs out here. I can feel it coming on the edge of night.”
“Oh, lord! I’ve been waiting for this moment - for all my life!” Brad busted out in song and everyone joined in., even though no one knew all the words.
“So you can wipe off that shit eatin grin.” Jimmy chimed back as he returned with the five drinks. He had to get everyone a drink for committing the party foul of unfair scare tactics.
“We know where you’ve been, its all been a pack of lies.” The girls all joined in on this last line with David playing drums on a pile of logs.
Once again the beast cringed. This time he would not flee from the scene. This time the anger that welled up within the beast would be unleashed upon the humans, suppressed for now he sniffed at the night drawing in the fresh air and, yes, the scent of fear. The girl that had seen him was still holding on to her fear. She had rationalized her phobia of the unknown, but had not completely masked her concerns. It was time to make them real. He growled in defiance at the laughter and bounded from the tree.
The lightning crashed, the thunder rumbled and the seconds between lessened yet again. The storm loomed very close now, as did death, thought the beast. He hunched upon a boulder at the edge of the glow from the campfire and waited. A different roar would follow the next bolt of lightning.
The storm clouds massed overhead, a dark billowy barrier strangling the moon, suffocating its radiant light. One loan star stood out in the sky, the rest could not defy the heavy mass of atmospheric tides.
“Dudes, that is one angry sky, just thinking of all that rain is making me want to take a leak. Oh yea, I gotta go.” Jimmy almost tripped as he stood up; his neck cranked back staring up at the dark mass of rolling clouds. “Anybody else want to join me for some invigorating relief?”
“No way bro, I’m not coming anywhere near your penis. No one knows where that things been.” Brad looked at Cindy, as he added, “no offense.”
“Jimmy! No more messing around. I’m serious!” Cindy slapped him on his but as he walked by.
“Scouts honor, baby. I love you.” He swooped down and planted a soft kiss on her cheek and gently ran his fingers through her hair. “I promise.”
“Ah, that’s nice. Oh yea, let her rip, baby. Nothing better than a nice pee, huh guys?” Jimmy shouted back to the camp as he looked over he shoulder with a sigh.
“Yes, James. That’s very nice. Now don’t talk to me with your dick in your hand.” Dave laughed and turned back to the kiss that he was in the middle of. Two more years of college and this girl would be his wife. It was all in the plan.
Brad laughed as well as he tilted back his beer in salute and then he too turned in for a kiss from Suzie. High school sweethearts and now college romancers they too were destined to be married, but for now they were just having fun, nothing serious yet.
Cindy held her head in her hands rubbing her temples. The night was winding down. The first raindrops of the coming storm were falling and when Jimmy returned she would drag him into the tent and seduce him. The pitter-patter of raindrops would lull her to sleep, as she lay content in her lover’s arms.
He could smell the human. He was that close and yet the darkness of the night masked his presence, quite like the milky waters of a murky pond keeping secret what lies beneath. The beast breathed in slowly with closed eyes, savoring the delicious scent of fear. This human did not seem at all frightened, but was still emitting the delightful scent.
The lightning split the sky with a crash, its light splintering across the sky and lighting up the night.
Jimmy looked up at the brilliant ark as it flashed out its volatile combustion and when he turned his gaze back to his business at hand he found the eyes of the beast! His mind was dumbstruck with fear. For a moment he did not respond at all, a frozen terror had enveloped him, embracing him with the shock necessary to cope with this situation.
The beast snarled a vicious growl, low and deep it shattered the embracing shock. The fear of the human filled the beast sending a surge of adrenaline through his body. His heartbeat thumped wildly with the anticipation of a kill!
Jimmy’s mind screamed at him to run, but his feet refused to obey. His voice failed him as well, as a dead scream fell from his trembling lips. His hands were commanded to form fist, but they too refused to listen. His entire body had betrayed him, as he stood frozen with terror. He would have peed himself had he not already been peeing, but none-the-less his urine stained his pants, as he stood wide eyed with terror, pissing on his 501’s.
In one quick movement the beast was upon him. Snarling fangs inches from his face, the tepid breath of death so close that its warmth touched him. This was it, Jimmy thought in despair. This was how he was going to die, but the fangs did not come.
The beast sniffed at the humans face, pulling in the scent. This one was scared, yes, but the more satisfying scent was from the first one – the girl. The beast’s tongue lolled from his mouth as he licked the face of the human. The same spot where the girl had licked this humans face earlier. The taste was as explosive as the lightning. It jarred the inner spirit of the beast and filled him with a need for more. She would be the first. He would feast upon her flesh and devour her fear.
The attack was over as quick as it had begun. When Jimmy’s scream finally pierced the night the beast was already on the move.
Dave was the first one to notice him fall and his laughter brought the others attention.
“What’s up, bro? What’s so funny” Brad looked up from his girlfriend’s beautiful face.
“Dude, check out Jimmy. He fell over taking a whiz.” David had time for one more laugh before the scream.
Everyone jumped all at once. Cindy cringed at the sound; her inner being knew full well the dangers of this night, but her other being immediately stepped in, this one still the stronger of her emotions, this one soothed and coddled her, placating her fears.
“What is wrong with that idiot, enough is enough, James!” Suzie shouted out, even though that small voice inside her shouted out its own warning.
David and Brad jumped up. Both friends were startled by the sincerity of the jokesters scream.
“Something’s wrong.” Dave was on the move.
When the flashlights reached him he was still on the ground. His arms had been the first to return. They obeyed as the brain instructed. Get us out of here. It wasn’t much of a command, but his arms back-peddled as best they could, pulling his body away from the spot that the beast had been. His legs were still in full mutiny though and they blatantly refused to be told what to do, so he simply did his best in dragging himself backwards until his friends reached him and held him still.
“Are you all right? What happened, Jimmy? Talk to me, buddy. I’m right here.” Brad knelt beside his friend holding him up as his arms still back-peddled. “He’s scared to death, David. He’s not just messing around here.”
David’s flashlight found nothing but momentary shadows as it encompassed the perimeter. Its beam fought the dark, but was no match for the thickness of the night.
They both knelt beside their friend sharing uneasy glances and staring into the nothingness of the inky blackness of the night.
“Jimmy, it’s all right we’re here. Tell us what happened.” David held his friend, pulling him up into a sitting position. “What is it? Jimmy? What happened to you?
“There’s some - something – there’s something out there!” Jimmy’s voice broke and stuttered as his words tumbled from his still trembling lips. “ I’m – I’m not messing ar- around here. I know I’m not all – all ways ser – ser – serious, but this time.” Slowly Jimmy found his voice and with the reassurance of his friends the rest of his body began to obey. He stood next to his friends and pulled up his pants. “ See what I mean. I I peed on my self. You know that not even I would do that.” And if that wasn’t enough then the next screams that broke through the night shattered any and all doubt of logical reasoning.
All at once their heads spun around toward the camp, toward the scream. A shadow swept past the campfire’s glow and was gone. They ran back to the unprotected girls, their hearts racing, their minds spinning with unknown fears.
“Oh my God! It took Cindy! Oh my God! Cindy!” Her desperate, unanswered call resounded into the night. Susie was shaking all over and staring into the night. Her mind spun with inability, full rampant disorder had assumed control here. There would be no placating this scenario.
Rena just stared, an unbelieving look of shock covering her face. It had passed so close, too close. It had stopped right next to her! Just long enough to sniff at her like a curious dog, but this beast did not carry with it the curiosity of a dog. No tail wagged, no tongue lapped, just wicked fangs and devilish eyes filled with malicious intent.
It had bounded in on all fours like a wolf, but had then stood before Rena like a man, like a gargoyle. A beast covered in hair and muscle that should not exist in this world except for maybe on the movie screen, a paramount picture come to life.
Its face was too horrible to look upon and immediately Rena squeezed her eyes shut. It was then that the image filled her mind with such clarity that it was almost real. The beast snapped in at her sinking its fangs into her head. She could feel the image come to life as the snarling beast bit into her face, its long drooling fangs sinking deep into her skull. The beast then dropped back onto all fours, dragging her still kicking body into the darkness of the night.
Only the intensity of Cindy’s terrified screams drug her out of the image. They say you can die of fright and if there is any validity to that then she was as close as one should come. Her heartbeat stampeded in her chest like the thundering hooves of frightened cattle.
Brad held her by the arms shaking her maybe a little too ruff for ordinary circumstances, but ordinary circumstances where no longer a part of this night.
“Rena, baby, come on. Come back to me, baby. What was that? Where is Cindy?” David looked into Rena’s comatose eyes and pleaded for her return.
Brad held Suzie tight. “It’s all right sweetheart, I’m right here. It’s going to be okay.” Splendid lies fell from his lips as he tried to calm the panic.
“No! It’s not going to be all right! Nothing is going to be all right. Don’t try to calm me down like nothing just happened. You didn’t see that thing. There’s some kind of beast out there. It took Cindy and I don’t think it’s done yet, Brad. So don’t tell me shit!” Suzie stared at Brad and as their eyes locked a feeling of dread oozed from her rambled mind and slipped into Brad’s head. His defenses were useless; dread slipped easily past his mental guardian and made itself at home.
Jimmy paced around the others, his mind spinning unable to come to terms with this situation. No joke could pacify this turn of events. His dampened Levis clung unnoticed to his leg, His 501 fly stood wide open and his manly tool stood in disarray, half tucked into his fruit-of-the-looms and half exposed to the night. With mechanical effort he righted the situation and continued to pace.
All of this happened in the tense moments before the scream.
“Cindy! Oh my God, she’s still alive. We’ve got to help her.” Jimmy started after the dying scream.
“Wait! Jimmy, wait!” Dave grabbed his arm, pulling him back. “We have to stick together. We don’t know what we’re dealing with. We don’t know what’s out there, Jimmy.”
“Cindy is out there, Dave. That’s what’s out there! She might not have time for thought. I have to try to help her and now!” A firm resolve had come to his mind. Time was of essence here. This was easy to see and even more clarified when the next scream shattered the thoughts of the remaining five.
“Jimmy’s right, Dave. We have to try something” Brad wrestled with the settling dread, but could not shake it from his mind, so he tucked it behind what bravery he could muster and grabbed his flashlight”
“I’m not staying here.”
“Me neither, no way.”
The girls clung to their men. Their men clung to what weapons they could find, a sharp stick, a rock and a tent pole and with fear as their guide they headed into the woods.
Darkness met them at the edge of the campfire’s glow and let them in. Welcome it seemed to say, welcome to the unknown.
She was dead before they hit the edge of the night. There would be no more screams for them to follow. The horrific site that Rena had visualized was what Cindy had felt. The beast had kept her alive to bait the others in and just as soon as courage had brought them forward, death set her free. Her fear was enjoyed immensely, every drop savored, every flinch as delicate as the next, her screams were excruciatingly delicious. The beast was primed now as he strolled back into the inviting paths that the dark night offered. The night had exploded with fear and the fun had just begun!
Lightning splintered in the distance and heavy raindrops blotted from the sky, thunder exploded from somewhere far away and five friends walked into a storm. The storm that threatened overhead would pass with out much notice, head due east and fall on rooftops with the pitter patter sounds that lulled soft and warm people to sleep, but the storm they were walking into would explode into a full blown nightmare!
They creep into the stifling darkness, jumping at every sound, wincing at the power of their imagination and waiting in trepidation for the unknown predator to make its next move. A snapping twig sends an explosion of adrenaline racing through their bodies. Their heartbeats threaten to explode from their chest and flee into the night. The further they advance into the darkness the stronger the night seems to grow. With each step it closes in on their flashlight beams like a swarm of hungry gnats. Lush is the dense forest, its’ thick boughs reaching into the night, their height a mystery to the eye as the darkness of the night covers their tracks well. The wind whispers a haunting tale as it crawls through the canopy, creeping its way to the forest floor mimicking the movement of menace.
The blood trail isn’t hard to follow. A steady stream guides them towards their doom. Fifty feet into the trail the stream turns into scattered droplets and fifty feet further the droplets disappear all together.
With no trail to follow and only four of the five flashlights remaining, the groups’ determination begins to fold, fear pulses within their veins as the wilds of their imagination take form and take control. Silence has embedded itself upon the forest; the creatures of the night dare not stir, for even the hunters’ have become the hunted. This eerie silence is like being stuck in a crocodile filled swamp on a foggy night, navigated by a mysteries old man, in an old boat, with a quarter moon to light the way.
Fifty feet further brings them to the realization that hope is not on their side. With no sign of a trail to follow and not a clue as to what they are up against, the walls of defiance, which they had so nimbly constructed within their minds, begins to crumble.
“We have to go back. It’s too damn dark out here.” Fear filled her words as it robbed her of any bravery or camaraderie that she had left.
“We can’t leave her, Suzie. For God’s sakes she needs us!” Jimmy’s flashlight flickered and went dead. He smacked it on his leg and shook it, grudgingly, back to life.
“She’s my friend to Jimmy, but she’s gone.”
“How can you say that? She is alive!” The flashlight shimmered its objection and again went dead. “SHIT, I’m going out of my fucking head here.” The flashlight blatantly refused to shine and so paid for its defiance. Jimmy slammed the flashlight against a tree and tossed the shattered remains, the darkness swallowed it in its gloom.
“Jimmy, bro, take it easy. We’re all freaked out here, but I’m afraid that Suzie’s right. We’re all going to die if we don’t get out of these woods. We have to get back to the suburban and haul ass out of here. We can’t do anything else. We’ll send the authorities as soon as we reach cell phone range. Look around you, we’re half way in the middle of freaking no where and we don’t have the slightest clue where to look.” Brad hugged his frightened girlfriend and kissed her gingerly upon her cheek.
The beast felt the breaking of their strengths and moved in to further destroy their shattering will. With stealth and speed the creature closed in on his frightened prey.
Brad spun to face the charge, his flashlight filled his eyes with fear, but still gallantly his tent pole sword swung into defense. The beast smacked the flashlight into submission and swept the helpless human off his feet with a powerful slash. The pole swung harmlessly into the air as feet found their selves at the same height as ass only moments ago, his body slammed into the hard earth just as his human cry echoed into the night. So quickly did follow the commotion of the frightened crowd, screams from the girls, panic and retaliation from the men. There was still a fight left in the others, not for long thought the ancient predator, not for long and as quick as it had come, it was gone.
The two remaining beams of light battled the darkness as they furtively searched for the attacker.
David and Jimmy immediately went to Brad’s aid, David’s flashlight tracking the direction of the beast, but finding nothing. Jimmy grabbed the flashlight from David’s hand, directing it on the wounded leg so David could fix the problem. David was always giving someone first aid so naturally it would be him to wrap up the gashing wound.
Jimmy held Brad’s head. “Brad, are you all right? Brad.”
He groaned upon the ground as his eyes flickered around beneath their coffin-closed lids.
The frightened girls stood huddled close, their shared flashlight searching in a panic for what they hoped they would not have to see.
“Where did it go? It’s coming back. I know it will. Just like before. It’s coming back! I’ve got to get out of here!” Suzie’s panic smashed into her in overwhelming tides that she could not defy. Her mind broke and she bolted into the woods.
“Calm down. Calm down. Don’t!” David tried to grab the frightened girl but inches defied him and she was gone, disappearing into the darkness within an instant. “No! Damn.”
“I’ll get her.” Jimmy dashed after Suzie without thought or hesitation, his flashlight bouncing into the night and then disappearing all together.
Brad groaned upon the ground, his mind coming back to the now. “My leg. Oh man my leg. Is that thing gone? Is everyone else okay? Oh, Jesus, we’re fucked. Did you see that thing? We’re going to need better weapons!”
“Lay still, Brad. Your leg looks bad, bro. Let me wrap it up.” David held him down in hopes that Jimmy would find Suzie and return before that thing came back. Rena stood by his side, the last flashlight aimed at Brad’s torn leg.
“Suzie, baby where are you. It’s going to be okay, baby.” Brad looked up. “Where is she?” Panic welled up in his voice as he struggled against Brad’s grip. “Let me up, man.” A cold warning lingered in his words as he grabbed his friend’s arm. He pulled himself up and limped to his feet. “Where is she, David? Oh, baby, don’t do this to me.”
Rena moved in, her soft words trying to alleviate the deteriorating situation. “Jimmy’s going after her. They’ll be back, Brad, they’ll be back.” Her last words were to convince her of her own statement. “She panicked and ran and Jimmy ran after her.”
“Oh no, man. Oh no. This is not good. Which way did they go? We’re going after them!”
“What are we going to do, David? Suzie, Jimmy!” She screamed into the night without waiting for a reply. “Oh my God, this isn’t happening.” Rena looked at David, as did Brad. He had always been the silent leader in their lives. He always knew what to do; why even as kids it was David with the answers.
His flashlight explored the forest, but brought no answers to this question. He looked solemnly at the others as he spoke. “I don’t know.” The last flashlight danced once more upon the forest floor and then they turned left and hooked into the forest.
Had they turned right instead of left they would have stumbled over Suzie’s half eaten body. Recognition would have purged them of their stomach’s contents and sent most of them into shock.
The walking stick was fashioned from a stout broken branch and doubled as a weapon. David had sharpened the end into a fine point as best he could with what could be found. He had also picked another branch as his own weapon and so the remaining three went in search of the lost two as they headed back in the direction of the camp.
“Are you all right, Rena?” David stopped momentarily and held her face in his hands as he stared into her beautiful eyes. The overbearing darkness held her beautiful blues at bay, but David didn’t need light to see her eyes, they had long ago been implanted in his mind’s eye. “I love you, baby. If we don’t make it out of here, I want you to know that.”
“I do know that, David. Now lets just kill that damn thing and go home.”
“I’m all over that. It’s time for some payback.” Brad shook his head in agreement as he squeezed tighter his grip on his walking stick, slash killing tool.
The blocks of defiance were starting to be remodeled as the group pulled together and dug into the trenches of resistance.
“What was that? I heard something move out there.” Brad’s eyes fought the darkness in a futile battle as he searched the inky blackness of the forest. “No, over there, Rena.”
Her flashlight skirted across the darkness, but found nothing more than shadows. Some of these shadows danced, others fidgeted nervously as if the darkness were their only true friend, some appeared to hide, receding into the dark night, but one of these shadows took form, breaking out of the shadow realm and smashing into reality.
Fangs and fur rolled into action as the thing charged. Rena’s high pitch scream shattered the silence of the night, as all at once hell broke loose in the forest. Birds of the night took wing as the small hidden creatures of the forest scurried in panic for new cover. The field mice were safe from the winged hunters, the rabbits were safe from the foxes and the foxes did not fear the hounds, for a new predator stalked these woods and it was he that all feared and all fled.
The flashlight bounced and then took off for the treetops, as Rena back peddled and stumbled to the ground. When the beam again found its focus, Rena screamed. The bloodied face of the beast was sunk deep into Brad’s shoulder and as she stared in horror it raised its crimson stained face and growled.
Nothing could have braced her for this sight, for what she witnessed was not a bear or a wolf, or any other creature that she had ever seen, but a creature pulled from the nightmares of ten thousand dreams. Its face was blackened as if scorched by the flames of hell. Holding on to no true form its skin crawled upon its face as if maggots burrowed beneath its flesh. The creature looked at Rena with a demonic gaze that seemed to stare straight into her soul. It peeled back its rotted lips and gargled cries rose from within.
Blood dripped from its fangs as it stepped over Brad and slowly closed in. Terror held Rena in its clutches. Too afraid to move she trembled like a frightened child, her eyes locked on the closing doom.
Where was David, he must be down, but she could not take the flashlight away from the beast for even a second, for fear that it would attack. Her heartbeat raced within her chest, Brad moaned upon the ground and still no sign of David. The beast took another step in her direction and sniffed at the night, pulling in her scent its eyes closed and its mouth quivered in some form of demonic ecstasy.
It stood directly above her now, but still did not attack. A drop of her friend’s blood dripped upon her cheek, she could feel its warm breath upon her face and smell the putrid rank of old death.
Jimmy’s cry tore into the night with a fierce roar, reminiscent of old, a battle cry from days long past. The beast hesitated for just a second, torn back to a time of old when battle cries echoed across the land, followed by the deadly ring of steel. This cry was deadly as well, as this hesitation caused him the first blow.
Jimmy came in hard, anger leading his attack he struck at the beast with all his might. The tip of his makeshift spear buried itself into the side of the beast’s neck. The predator turned, an anguished growl gargled from its throat as it turned its assault on its unexpected attacker. The wound had caused more pain then just from the weapon, anger’s hatred had struck a mighty blow into the beast as well.
David’s consciousness returned in time to see this assault. Brad was down, David’s vision blurred as he sat up staring into the darkness of the night, the flashlight beam casting sporadic shadows across the bloodied scene. Rena lay back on the ground with blood upon her face. Was she hurt? A sudden burst of anger welled within him as this thought crashed into his mind.
The beast was turning upon his attacker when another defiant roar split its way into his head, alone in this world he shuttered. It was happening. Sure it had happened before, it always ended this way, but never this fast. Was his time here drawing to an end? Was he not as powerful as he once had been? He turned back to the girl, she was the weak one, she would feed him the beautiful fear, but instead she kicked out a repulsive kick that landed a severe blow to the side of his head. It seemed so cold now; they had bonded together and struck out at him with a very powerful weapon, one that he could not stand against for long – hatred! The hatred here had grown strong, but not yet was it enough. He cringed as the hatred burned its way through his body, cursing its way into his system and bringing with it the pain of degeneration. He felt another stab from his other side and a heavy thud as the first attacker struck at him again. The beast shrunk away from these attacks and bolted into the night.
They had attacked and he had shrunk away from their assault. Had he stayed he may have found himself trapped, once more, deep in the confines of hatred. He had escaped them for now and he would regroup and reemerge, once again they would fear him.
The times here they were changing, superstitions an old fears were almost dead upon this world. Had the innocents of fear been weakened to this point? Had the human mind become numb to the possibilities of the unknown? They were so quick to rebound, but he had tasted their fear and he knew he could bring them to where they needed to be. If the wounded one still lived he would finish him, feed upon his flesh and strengthen from his fear. The female one had kicked him in his face, for that she would pay!
Brad moaned upon the ground, the blood from his shoulder streaming from the grisly wound. His was incoherent and loosing more blood with each beat of his fading heartbeat.
They had done their best to compress his wound, but it was gruesomely obvious that a main artery had been severed and this crimson tide would not be subdued by their meager means.
“Oh my God, he’s dying. Tie it off Jimmy, do something!”
“I can’t. It’s right by his neck. What do you want me to do tie off his fucking head?
Everyone was tense now. This shit was really getting to their heads and when Jimmy yelled at Rena David stepped out of the norm and got really pissed. “Hey that’s enough asshole. Rena is freaking out like we all are.”
“Well hey, I’ve got an idea. Fuck you and fuck Rena? Jesus, man I’m Going to kill that son-of-a-bitch! You fucker!” Jimmy stood up and kicked at the ground, a gaze of hatred streaming from his eyes like a red-hot laser, hot enough to melt steel. “Shit!” His voice resounded into the night and the beast felt the wrath of his call.
Jimmy suddenly hunched over. Thick, dark waves of nausea passed over him, rolling through his guts in stiffening waves. He puked on the ground, unable to fight the heated surges. He had never felt so much anger, so much hatred for anything. He gasped for air as green bile dripped from his nose, wracked with pain as convulsions ripped at his stomach, doubling him over with repeated attacks. Finally Jimmy straightened up, the cramps ceased their bitter hold, but not without the threat of a relapse as one more rolled swiftly up his spine. He coughed and spit, wiping his nose with a downward swipe of his hand.
“We have to kill that bastard! It’s him or us. Rena, are you all right?” He stood transfixed upon a hidden thought. It seemed that good old Jimmy was gone and now a man with a serious mission stood before them. Anger had raised him from his good nature and pitted him with an unchallenged hatred. The old Jimmy never wanted to kill anything, but the new Jimmy needed to.
“Thanks, David. I thought I was lost when that thing turned on me, but then there you were stabbing at that bitch with all you had. And you, Rena, you turned the tides, baby. Did you see that thing shrink back when you kicked it in its ugly jowls? Yea, baby, that was the shit! Look at my stick. That’s blood and it aint mine!
“Jimmy. Hey Jimmy.” He was pumped and way too much to be normal. “Jimmy. Are you all right, bro?” David looked at his life-long friend and found no one that he knew.
“I’m fine, but we have to kill that fucker, David, and I mean fuckin dead!”
“I’m with that, Jimmy.” He knelt next to Brad wishing him to live, but deep in his heart he knew there was no help for his friend, blood spilled through the makeshift bandage and poured through his fingers. “Jimmy, did you find Suzie?”
He stood staring into the darkness of the night as if Brad didn’t exist at all. “She’s gone. I’m sorry, man, but she’s gone.”
Rena winced at his words and snuffed back an angry tear. Her heart hardened with each second that dared to tick.
“We’re coming for you. YOU SON-OF-A-BITCH!” His voice tore into the darkest recesses of the night and the creatures of the forest cringed from his anger.
The beast cringed as well as the maddened echo reverted into his heart. His ancient body quivered as it shrunk. Something in his back cracked as his neck whip lashed in pain. This hatred was strong. This was the price the beast had always had to pay, but the pain was always worth the consequence. Hatred had its way of stagnating the world, and after all; this was his joy- spreading hatred into a world that he despised.
One more kill should do the trick. The boy or the girl? They were all children to him, Gods children, he thought with a mordant grin. The boy or the girl? This thought pleased him, having the power of choice, who would live and who would die, how tastefully elegant, how wonderfully poetic. He loved to piece this world together, but even more than that he loved to rip it apart! The beast could feel the strong bond of love between the two humans and he could not leave that kind of strength to ruin his plans. Love could overcome many obstacles, one of which was hatred. One of them would have to die.
Again a nauseating wave of pain swept through the beast as the slow ending crept upon him with its agonizing grip. His bones dislocated and his discs regenerated into smaller sub-particles.
The beast would kill the first one that he saw. Time was of an essence now, the reversing had begun and with that thought another explosion of pain wracked him thoroughly.
A blood bubble popped on his lips as the last gasp of air rose from his lungs. The beast felt him die as the last of his fear vanquished with the beating of his heart. In mid stride he stumbled as his hips popped out of place and then rejoined in an agonizing scrape of bone on bone.
“Brad! Oh man he’s gone.” Anger welled within her as she slowly pulled her bloodied fingers away from her friend’s carotid artery. There was no longer a pulse; in its place a fast brewing anger was stewing into hatred.
The beast felt this anger and it pleased him, even though the pain from it wracked his body with sledgehammer effectiveness. The boy!
The beast tore out of the darkness and was upon him before any of the others could even move. They went down in a clump of fur and snarling fangs as the force of the charge impacted into this last victim. The beast was the size of a border collie now, but one with fangs and claws of death instead of whims for attention and a wagging tail.
“Jesus!” Rena screamed as David’s gnarled cry chocked from his throat.
This was the first real cry for a God that the beast had discerned. This too seemed to be fading from this world, not a bad trade thought the beast with contentment.
David fought savagely to free himself from the unyielding grasp of the beast, but to no avail. His frantic mind waned in its efforts to elude him from the suffocating fangs of the ancient predator and before it had begun it was done. The attack was precise. David’s jugular had been torn, his windpipe lacerated by the sharp teeth of his assailant.
Jimmy grabbed the shrieking beast and tore it from David, the hatred of his mind turning his hands into weapons and his thoughts into need. His grip was so tight that his fingers drew blood from the flesh of the beast as he turned it towards a broken, jagged limb and slammed the beast’s face into it with all his might. The thing howled in pain as it fell to the ground with the limb imbedded into its skull. Jimmy’s anger escalated as his heavy boots reigned in upon the beast.
Rena’s mind went blank as her hatred overpowered any fear that lingered, she saw red as she grabbed the makeshift spear that David had been holding and rammed it into the beast. A great and secret pleasure filled her as she repeatedly buried the sharp stick into the belly of the beast.
Jimmy’s anger still did not reside, in fact it seemed to grow. The more damage he inflicted upon the beast the better he felt. His heart was kicking with adrenaline and his mind spinning with malcontent and he savagely attacked the downed prey. He was the hunter now!
Oh yes, the beast thought as it shrunk into nothing, the seed was planted, it gave him pleasure to know that there was no doubt that it would grow! It winced from the pain of the regeneration of its flesh and bones, his attackers’ brought him pain as well, but that was a simple pain compared to the other.
Neither of them seemed to notice that the beast had shrunk to the size of a kitten. Jimmy’s boot smashed into its skull with a savagery he should never of had to know and now would not be able to live without.
In the end the beast was small, too small to discern with the naked eye. Once again trapped deep within the confines of hatred, maybe even deeper than it could ever remember-maybe not?
The darkness presumed its innocence in all of this, welcome it seemed to say, as it rolled back its tenacious grip and let the first rays of dawn etch their way into its mighty depths.
They walked now in silence, leaving behind people that were not their lifetime friends, but people who were probably better off dead anyway. They would explain it the cops in an, ‘oh well’ manner that would be taken as shock from such a violent and severe loss. Therapy would be offered and rejected as unnecessary and tons of useless condolences would be thrown their way from people that they really couldn’t remember caring less about in the first place.
In the end one would spend his last days on death row for the heinous murders of twenty-three innocent victims and the other would laugh at the irony of not getting caught with her partner of death. What became of Susie, oh yes, she fell too far into herself and could not reemerge. The beast came upon her with malice, but left with unconcern. The police detectives found her huddled in a ball as an empty soul. She resides in a place where, no matter the efforts, no one can find her.
Yes, an ancient seed had been planted. How many times before? How many times again?
It stirred beneath its ancient flesh and wondered how long it had been since it had last emerged. Quickly it brushed aside the thought. Time was not important, only the fear, only the hatred, only the flesh!
There is a darkness that resides in us all. Some find it with ease and nurture it along, while others are repulsed at even the thought and they hide it well. Some of us bring it out once in a while to let it run free, to let it play in the fields of havoc, but have the control to put it away before it is too late. Then there are those who are trapped by it and live a life of no concern, no consequence and no control.