After another minute of climbing she crested a small rise. The trail widened and she saw it just ahead, barely visible through the mist: the cabin.
It was a single story, made of logs like some mountain man’s lodge from an old western. Sam shuffled up onto the small porch and tried the door. Locked. There were no lights on inside but she knocked anyway, praying that there was no one home; no one who would be endangered simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sam waited, as little by little, the sounds of movement in the woods returned, growing louder.
Time was quickly running out. Satisfied that the structure was empty, Sam crossed to one of the small windows that flanked the front door and used the butt of her shotgun to smash it. She would have to barricade the windows anyway. After knocking out the remaining glass from the frame she set the rifles and shotgun inside. As she began slipping her backpack off, she looked to a large axe lodged in a nearby stump. She glanced down at the wooden porch deck…
And ran quickly to retrieve the axe. She tossed it inside, followed by her backpack. Next she stepped up onto the frame and jumped into the cabin’s main room. Feeling around, her left hand landed on a table and something on top of it—picking the object up and holding it to the moonlight she was able to make out that it was a lantern. Luckily, it was battery-powered and when she hit the switch, a blast of light washed over her surroundings.
The main room was fairly small; just a few hundred square feet. Taking the lantern for a quick walk through the structure Sam noted a bathroom and a bedroom with a closet. No other door to the outside; one entrance, one exit.
In the main room was sparse furniture, including a couch, bookcases and cabinets. Her eyes traveled to the open window, expecting a beast to come leaping through it any second. She put the lantern on the floor and hauled a bookcase over, blocking out the pain in her sore ankle, knocking a few novels to the floor in the process. It felt like it took forever but finally she dragged it into place. Luckily the unit was tall enough to cover the void. It wouldn’t hold for long but it was something. As she dragged the next set of shelves to the second front window, Sam thought: if I’m strong enough to move these, the hell hounds will make quick work of them...
Especially the unit in front of the broken window. The only other piece of furniture to use was… the couch. Sam got ahold of one end and pulled it over, her breath fogging, muscles fatigued as she lifted one end so that it braced diagonally against the unit.
There were two more windows on either side of the living area and one in the bedroom. The bedroom would be her fallback position so it was imperative to bar that window completely. Searching through the cabinets, Sam found several tools, including a hammer and nails. She took up the axe and the lantern, ran to the bookcase in front of the intact window, threw out the books and then dislodged the shelves. Those she took into the bedroom and hurriedly nailed across the window; she then upended the bed and wedged it against the makeshift barrier. She was bent over, hands on her knees, thoroughly exhausted but she still had the two remaining windows in the main room to worry about.
With the lantern back on the floor she began dragging a cabinet to the eastward-facing window when she heard it, just outside, a desolate chorus that sent shivers down her spine:
She knew, without knowing how exactly, that it was a signal for the pack to attack. She had barely gotten the cabinet to the window when the assault began.
Snarling, growling, guttural animal noises erupted from outside the walls. Heavy impacts rocked the shelf unit in front of the broken window, sending books flying across the room. The end of the couch that was still on the floor skidded, leaving scrape marks in the wood.
Sam hurried over, planted her hip against the arm of the couch in attempt to stop its movement and raised her shotgun—a single-barrel Mossberg—toward the shelving unit. She could feel the force of repeated attacks, sending electrical arcs of pain through her injured ankle. Finally the wooden back of the unit snapped and stove in; shelves collapsed and claws appeared in the widening cracks. A snout pushed through and Sam unloaded a shotgun blast directly into it. The muzzle disappeared.
Then a loud crack to her left broke through the ringing in her ears. Spinning, she saw fractures in the window; there was a second hit and the glass came apart. Sam swung the shotgun up, pumped the forestock and blasted the wolf that hurtled through. The furry black mass fell heavily to the floor and moved no more… but clawed hands reached through the opening where it had broken in. Sam darted to a spot just a few feet from the window and began a pattern of racking the shotgun, blasting, racking, blasting, as ejected casings peppered the floor…
Sam had gotten so caught up that she almost didn’t hear the shattering of glass behind her. The window on the other side of the room had given way and the cabinet, made of thinner wood than the shelves, came apart easily. Sam drew one of the semi-automatic pistols, already locked and loaded, and fired at the leering wolf head that shoved itself through the breach. The first shot missed; the second was a perfect hit dead center in the beast’s forehead. That wolf corpse was suddenly, viciously ripped aside as another, larger wolf took its place.
On the other side, a brown-furred hellhound was pushing its way in. In front and to her left, clawed hands were thrashing the bookcase to splinters. Muffled sounds of glass breaking behind the second bookcase at the other front window preceded that unit’s thunderous crash to the wooden floor.
Too many; way too many all at once. Sam slung the shotgun and drew a second handgun, firing with both hands, barely taking time to aim. Some bullets reached their marks, others did not; if Sam didn’t retreat to the bedroom now the hounds would be inside and on her before she had time to deploy her next counter measure.
She holstered the handguns, snatched up the pack, axe and lantern and bolted for the bedroom. Once inside she dropped her gear, dug into the pack and removed the claymore mine.
It had taken some internet searching, done by her phone before leaving Blackrock, to figure out exactly how the mine worked. Even after the considerable time she had spent and the practice runs she had done in her head, Sam wasn’t a hundred percent confident.
But there was no time now to second-guess.
She removed the thin, curved mine from its bag, unfolded the scissor legs and with shaky hands placed the mine at the bedroom door threshold, pointing the side that said “front toward enemy” out into the main room… where beasts were crawling through every single window.
Sam unrolled the firing wire, quickly made the necessary preparations and finished by screwing the adapter with the blasting cap into the detonator. In the main room, the hounds were closing in.
Her heart hammering against her chest, Sam dove to the side, just in front of the closet. She connected the firing device to the firing wire, flipped the safety bail and gave the plastic “clacker” a quick squeeze just as the first wolf reached the threshhold.
The mine detonated with devastating force as seven hundred silver balls blasted outward, shredding anything and everything in their path.
Sam felt the blast all the way to her bones. Forcing herself to move, ignoring the pain in her ankle, she crawled over to retrieve the lantern. Glancing through the doorway, all she saw at first was smoke. As it began to clear, the lamplight revealed a decimated ruin populated with wolf bodies and pieces of wolf bodies. And then, amazingly, the figures—even the pieces—began to shift right before her eyes, back into human form.
There was little time to gawk, however: more hounds were entering through the access points. Cursing, Sam got to her feet and shut the bedroom door. She picked up the axe, limped into the closet, and set to work.
The claymore must have scared the beasts somewhat; it took a good thirty seconds or so before they began bashing the bedroom door.
Her work done, Sam shut herself inside the closet, just as the bedroom door splintered to pieces.
In the closet’s cramped, dark space, as its small door began to shudder from repeated blows, Sam reached into her jacket pocket… and pulled out the grenade.