This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
“That’s three this week Ted.” I was tired of having the same argument with my boss. We’re a big journalist company and we handle big news. Apparently three animals attack in one week is for the local paper and not the state’s paper. Our company handles state news, meaning all the major things. We all live in Fall Haven, which should really be Small Haven because the population is so small that everyone knows everyone, which means secrets are never secret. By the time you declare it a secret half the town already knows.
My point is I believe this case should be mine to have. The town paper isn’t doing shit. They have people ‘investigating’ but really they are spending their time in the local dinner chatting up the waitresses. I believe I really can change that and do some real reporter work here. That’s what I plan on doing too. “Ted, you and I both know the stupid town paper doesn’t do anything. We both know that. Let me have the animal attack case. You know I investigate everything. I’ll make this story amazing. Please.” I begged. My boss ran his hand over his bald head with a sigh. Ted was a short round man with no hair and dark brown eyes. He is dark skinned and always dressed in a dress shirt and dress pants. He was always dressed ‘professionally’. He says I dress unprofessionally. I wear jeans and a random plain shirt with sneakers.
“Fine. Fine Claire, you can get the story.” I sighed in relief and smile.
“Thank you sir.” I turned to go, but his voice stopped me.
“Fields.” I turned and looked back at him. “This case.... it isn’t safe. Animal attacks daily is getting a bit much. Be careful with this case. I don’t want you going anywhere near those attack sights without another person with you, preferably with a gun.” I rolled my blue eyes, but gave a nod.
“Yes sir.” I pushed my red hair behind my ear and walked out. I wasn’t exactly gorgeous, I was more small town beautiful. With my curly auburn hair that fell just passed my shoulders, and my pale flawless skin, along with my piercing blue eyes. People say that I make a statement with my looks. Although I don’t think jeans, a plain shirt, and my worn out sneakers really help with that statement, whatever that statement is.
Before walking out of the building I grabbed my jacket and my phone. First things first, interviewing the only survivor of the attacks. Fred Bilridge. A man in his late 60s, was walking through the woods looking for his dog when he was attacked. I wanted to hear it from him though, not the cops. He was a close friend of mine, so I knew he would open up to me and tell me everything. My plan is to interview him and then start looking into the history of animal attacks in our small town. See what I can find. Then I’ll talk to some locals and cops about their opinions of the attacks before going to the attack sight and seeing if I can’t find something of interest. I like planning out what I need to do before doing it.
So with that thought in mind, I start down the road and heading to Bilridge’s farm. His farm was located just outside of town, which meant about an hour’s walk, I don’t like having a car, in a small town like this you normally don’t need one. The air was nice and crisp for the fall season. Fall was a major season for this town. This town survives on farming and small town goods like yarn and some clothes perhaps. What’s unsure in this town was that the sun didn’t stay up long. The sun rises at 8 and sets at 7, that is during summer and spring, during fall and winter you have the sun rise at 10 and set at 3. It’s 12 now, so that meant I have three hours left of sunlight. Our town is filled with mysteries and we have yet to figure out the whole sun issue.
Either way it was the norm in this town. Everyone is used to the sun setting so early and rising so late. I thought about this as I walk down the paved roads leading out of town. We never get many people coming into town, normally only when they’re lost or passing through. This town never has much excitement, which is why our news company normally covers the three small towns, Fall Haven, Clearsville, and Bakervally. Bakervally is just before our town, while Clearsville is just after our town. We’re neighboring towns.
All three towns are old and have been here since before the Revolution, around the years of the 1500s. This town normally is a quiet town, things like this don’t happen often. Animal attacks... they’re rare, but I know something is going on because animals don’t just attack people. At least not in this town.
I shook the thoughts clear from my mind. To go into an investigation I have to have a clear mind. It allows me to think properly and figure out the truth without troubling thoughts getting in the way. My eyes found the old farm house just as the sun fully set and the night took over. There wasn’t a single light on in the house, which wasn’t exactly unusual for Fred Bilridge. He normally worked in the fields for hours after the sun had fallen, but when he did that he always had a light on his tractor, or whatever farm equipment he was using, in order to see, but the fields were as dark as the house. I frowned as my eyes looked around.
Maybe he went to bed early.
I thought as I walked towards the house. After all he was still recovering from the attack. As I got closer to the house I could feel my hair rise. Someone was watching me. I turned, my eyes squinting to see through thick darkness of the night, but I saw nothing. I could feel it like a bucket of ice water. I was being watched. Was it Fred? No... Fred is a gentle and kind old man, he wouldn’t be trying to scare me. Fred is a man that would run up to you and greet you with an excited smile. Fred loves company. This... This isn’t his thing.
I shook the feeling off as I headed up the steps. It had to be the darkness, it was messing with my head. I always hated the dark, I typically don’t go out at night, but I want to get this done and over with. With a shaky breath, I raised my fist and knocked on the door. The door swung open the second my fist touched it. It was unlocked and left a jar, not that I had noticed at first glance.
I looked around me, unsure if I should go in or not. Fred may love company, but he did not like trespassers. I shook my head. Fred could be hurt. I ruffled through my coat pocket before grabbing ahold of my phone. I took it out and turned the flashlight on before going entering the house. The house was very old and run down. I kept trying to get Fred to call someone to fix up the place, but that old man is stubborn. Believes the house isn’t worth fixing, says he doesn’t have many years, why bother fixing something he can’t even take with him. That man is always a strange one, but he is by far the best man I have ever met in honor wise.
His house was set up pretty basic. Once you enter the house you are greeted by a small foyer, the stairs are straight ahead and to your left, straight ahead is a guest bedroom, that Fred now sleeps in because he’s too old to get up the steps, and under the stairs is a small broom closet. To your right is the living room with the sun room just behind it, to your left was the dinning room with the kitchen just behind it and the bathroom outside it. Upstairs and to your left was five doors, two were guest bedrooms, one was a guest bathroom, and the last two were used for storage. To the right of you was three doors, two bedrooms and one bathroom. It was all set up rather nicely.
My destination lies on the down floor because Fred can no longer go up the stairs. I decide to check the dining room first. I head to my left and walk through the room. Normally he had a nice fire in the fireplace, which was just across from an old oak table that seated 6 people, but tonight the room was pitch black. I shone my flashlight around, but found nothing out of the ordinary. I still felt as if I was being watched. I turned and shone my light.... Nothing.
I continued on my search for the old farmer. Heading into the kitchen I was surprised when I saw pasta being boiled on the stove. He was making himself dinner, but from the looks of things the pasta has long since been burned. I turned the stove off, not wanting a gas stove to be left running, and looked around the small kitchen, but again nothing. I wrapped my arms around myself as that cold feeling returned, the feeling of being watched. I turned, but again I saw nothing.
My heart was racing at this point. Pounding inside my chest as if it would just burst out in any minute. My breathing was a bit heavy too and my arms were littered with goosebumps, but I continued on. I opened the door that lead out of the kitchen and behind the stairs that were in the foyer. I decide to go and look in his room, thinking he may be in there. I try to open the door, but it was stuck. I frown as I tried to make it budge.
Maybe it’s lock....
I thought before shaking my head. He doesn’t lock anything other than the front and back doors. There was no reason for him to lock that room. I tried to unjam it, when suddenly I felt cold air on my neck. 1 second.... 2 seconds... cold air.... 1 second... 2 seconds.... cold air..... 1 second.... 2 seconds...cold air. No it wasn’t air... it was someone’s breath. I spun on my heels, my heart pounding, but once again I saw nothing. By this point my body was shaking, it was hard to keep my light steady in order for me to see.
I stepped back and shook my head. I needed to find Fred and I mean right now. I walked towards the livingroom, my steps quicker than before. As I entered it I saw the windows had been smashed in.
Did something happened here?
Of course it did. Pasta left unintended, no fire place lit, main bedroom door jammed, something was defiantly wrong. I tried to call out to Fred, but my throat closed in on itself.
What if someone bad was in the house?
I thought terrified. I quickly shone my light around to see if there was anything else unusual in the room and when I saw nothing else I quickly headed into the sunroom. I needed to find Fred. I can’t leave without him. He could be hurt.
I walked into the room, this room was even darker than the rest, my flashlight barely shown through it all. I shone my light through the entire room, as best as could with such darkness, and when I saw nothing more I quickly headed out the front door. Now was the time to call the sheriff. No sign of Fred meant only something bad. I swiped my phone and punched in the number for the sheriff department.
I waited as the phone rang, my eyes scoping the area in case something happened. I tapped my foot as the rings kept going endlessly. “Come on. Come on. Answer damn it.” I snapped before it went to voice mail. I hate this small town simply because no one ever answers the damn phones. I hung up my phone, slipped it back in my pocket, and started panicking.
I can’t just leave. Something could have happened to Fred and don’t I owe it, not just as a journalist, but as his friend to make sure he’s okay? I wanted to cry in that moment. Not because of sadness, but because of my damn morals. I frustrate myself so much. I headed for the barn. If he wasn’t in the house then he’d be in the barn. The barn was quite a walk from the house, but I force myself to take it. The darkness felt as if it was closing in on me and I still felt the chills as if someone was watching me. With these elements all pressing down on me I sped up.
As I got closer to the barn I saw all the lights were on and I sighed in relief. “Jesus Fred, you had about given me a heart attack. I thought something happened to you.” I said as I entered the barn. I looked around, but didn’t see him. “Fred? Are you in here?” I called, but got to reply. I walked forward and look around. “Fred? Come on, stop joking around. Fred?” My voice was started to shake as fear took me in its hold. Where on earth was Fred?
I stood in the center of the barn, trying to find any form of life that was Fred. “Goddamn it Fred, where are you?” I called. I put my hand on my hip as I looked around. He was starting to piss me off. I was about to call out again, when I felt something wet touched my cheek. I frown and lifted my fingers, rubbing away the wet substance. When I brought my hand back it shook as I saw what was on my hand. My fingertips were coated in a thick layer of dark blood. My eyes traveled up above me.
A scream erupted my from my throat as I saw where the blood was coming from. On the room was Fred, hanging lifelessly with blood dripping down from deep cuts in his chest. His throat looked to have been slashed too. I stumbled back in fear. Who did this to him? He couldn’t have done it himself. “Run.” I heard a soft voice whisper in the dark.
I turned and did as it suggested, I ran. Ran from the lifeless corpse of Fred Bilridge. Ran from my fear. Ran from the last source of light on this property. I couldn’t see a single thing. It was pitch dark and I had no idea where I was going. I could hear heavy footsteps running after me, it only me run faster. Someone was behind me. Someone was after me. I felt tears fill my eyes as I thought,
I’m going to die.
I wiped the irritating tears away as I picked up my speed. I could feel rocks and sticks under my feet as I ran. I knew I was in the woods. The one place I didn’t want to end up. The woods, for my entire life, have always been known as the no no place. No one went into the woods except trained hunters and woodsmen. The woods were dark no matter the hour and always held a dark energy about it. Everyone in town knew not to go anywhere near it, but here I was running through it.
This thought scared me most as I ran faster. I was running right into my death, but if I turned back I would definitely die, straight was the only way. I had to keep going straight, it was only option. My breath was heavy and my chest hurt, I knew I wouldn’t have much energy to keep going. The footsteps behind me kept the same distance from me. If I sped up the footsteps sped up. It was as if whatever was following me was waiting for my energy to dropped and for me to give up. This was all a game for them.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry in this moment. This had all been a game, right from the start. I shook my head. I had only one option, play along. I had to keep running because at least then I have a chance. Of course luck wasn’t on my side and I didn’t have a chance. My foot caught onto a root and I fell hard to my face, I could hear the footsteps getting closer. I was dead.
Tears ran down my face as I forced myself up. If I just laid down and let the thing, whatever it was, kill me then who would I be helping? Me? No, I’d be just helping that... that... whatever the hell is chasing me. I stood up, with my ankle most likely twisted, I forced myself forward. I was limping badly and still running, but this time the footsteps didn’t keep the distance. No it was done with games. It was coming for me and I wasn’t going to make it. Not like Fred had the first time.
I moved passed these weird twisted trees as soon as I crossed them the footsteps stopped right outside the line drawn between the two trees. I turned and saw the thing for the first time. It was black, so I couldn’t make out the shape, but it definitely wasn’t human.The eyes... the eyes were so inhuman. They were white with red flecks in them. Those eyes belonged to no human nor animal. It belonged to a creature.
The beast looked at me and I couldn’t understand. Why doesn’t it attack me already? I’m here. I’m injured. All he has to do is pounced on me and I’m dead. Suddenly I heard a growl behind me. It made my hair stand up even more than it already was. I turned and behind stood a huge black panther, it’s eyes like melted gold, looked at me with such fierceness that I felt as if the eyes themselves were going to kill me. How did I end up in such a mess?
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