Ten Years Ago:
The nearest neighbor was three miles away, and the workers wouldn’t be back until morning. But… if she could get to the pole building out back, dad kept rifles there, in the gun safe—
Claws scraped against the sink. The thing in the kitchen hit the faucet handle. Water gushed.
The shortest way to the pole building was around the carport… which meant going near Tina…
You can do it. Run, sweetheart, run!
Lexi hurried back to the front doors, unlocked the right one and pushed, but neither door would move. They were all messed up from the monster hitting them. In the kitchen, feet or paws or whatever that thing had hit the tile floor. She took a step back and kicked. Once. Twice. Harder.
The right-side door finally broke open, just a few feet. She squeezed through and pushed the door shut as tight as she could but it wouldn’t close all the way.
As she shuffled backward the thing inside the house hit the door and nearly broke through. Lexi screamed, turned and cleared the porch steps in one jump.
Behind her the doors cracked and splintered.
Go, baby girl, go!
The monster snarled; wood snapped as the doors gave way. Lexi ran as fast her feet would carry her, holding her left hand up to block her view as she sped past the van, past Tina, trying not to think of those eyes, staring but seeing nothing; nothing anymore forever.
She could hear the monster running fast on the gravel—too fast. There was no way she could make the pole building in time. Far to her right was the hay barn—too far away—but directly in front of her was the wood shed.
Lexi ran up the little ramp, flung open the door, stepped on the first small piles and then climbed onto the higher ones. There was just enough space between these and the roof for her to crawl over.
The little shed was dusty and old, really old; long and made of planks and shaped like a strange, tiny house with sides that went up and out toward the top; like something out of a cartoon. She had snuck into it once when her and dad had played hide and seek and gotten into trouble— Dad said she could hurt herself because the wood could collapse or she would get splinters.
Suddenly the whole place shook. Lexi pulled wood from either side and dropped it behind her feet. The air felt thick and it was getting hard to breathe but she forced herself further in.
There was a low growl in the dark; that same sound that vibrated her chest. In between the monster sounds were the loud, desperate gasps of her own breathing. Her plan—as silly a plan as it was—was to hope that the monster would try to crawl in after her and get stuck.
She continued on, squeezing as tight as she could, going further, deeper. The thing in the dark clawed at the logs. The pile beneath her shifted; Lexi scrambled and felt a long sliver of wood jab through her jeans into her left thigh and then snap off as she kept pushing forward. Suddenly it felt as though everything was closing in on her.
The woodpile moved again; glancing over her shoulder Lexi spotted glowing eyes before a claw snagged the back of her right shoe.
Lexi yanked her foot upward. The shoe came off, and she squirmed as fast as she could all the way to the back of the shed. Now she would find out if she was right about something: the boards the shed was made of; about how old and rotted they were… mustering every bit of strength she had, Lexi punched the back wall and heard wood creak.
Harder! Give it all you got!
Beneath her, the pile moved again, along with the sounds of logs further back rolling, knocking together as the thing cleared a path. With grunts of effort Lexi hit the wall board again and again, as hard as she possibly could. It gave a little bit each time until finally it broke and a piece fell away. The space she had made was barely enough for her to get through but she held her breath, stuck her head out first and then kicked and struggled (expecting any second for a clawed hand to latch onto her ankle and pull her back into the darkness) until her chest and finally the rest of her was out and she fell onto the grass, air rushing from her lungs with the impact.
She sucked in breath and scrambled back as a clawed, fur-covered hand lunged out from the space in the upper back wall of the shed. It swiped at the air. Lexi got up, trying her best to ignore the burning pain in her left thigh and the awkwardness of having one shoe, she ran, looking back—
Then tripped, landing hard on the grass, numbing her left shoulder. She rolled and looked down to see what it was she tripped over… and screamed at the sight of a torn-up mound of meat and fur and insides. She knew, even though she couldn’t recognize him, that this was all that was left of Chewy.
Not fair. Like so many other things, it just wasn’t fair. Benji and Ruth’s beloved family dog… gone forever. Just like dad. Just like Tina.
Boards flew from the shed’s back wall into the grass. Slowly, the monster began pulling itself out.
Lexi rubbed at her pendant.
I’m here, sweetheart, I’m with you. I know you’re tired but you have to keep running.
She wiped her eyes, got up and did exactly that.