Panic paralyzed me. My chin hurt from the fall. I could hear the menacing serenade from behind me. It was neither dog nor coyote. There was a cadence to its sinister tune. Within this death-like song, it seemed like the beast was gurgling the sheriff’s blood in anticipation of more.
I didn’t know where Trevor was. He probably high tailed it safely away, leaving me to die. I never imagined my death would be like this. And for the record, I have never spent much time thinking about ways that I could eventually die. But if I did, this would not have been one of them.
If I was to die, I had to see what it was that was going to be the instrument of my demise. I had only glimpsed the thing as it dropped from the tree and taken the sheriff away. Now, I was pretty sure that if I turned around, I would get an up close and personal view.
I feared that if I moved too fast, it would jump on me before I had a chance to see it. The gun pinched the skin of my back. Maybe if I could move slowly enough, I could reach for the gun and get a shot off. I know I said the gun was as useless to me as a stick, but at least, I could shoot in the direction of the thing instead of just having a stick to throw.
My hands were shaking. With my luck, I would reach for the gun just to drop it and then I would be dead. I was breathing fast. I couldn’t stop my entire body from trembling.
I tried to ease onto my right side, my left hand slowly moved toward the gun. A deep throaty growl stopped me instantly. It was close and on the move. I couldn’t tell if it was moving closer to me or just circling around. I stayed on my side. If I went on my back and popped up, there was no telling from which direction it would attack from. I needed to know where it was before I did anything.
“Don’t move, Charlie,” Trevor whispered.
I craned my head a little to the left and saw him. He was crouched by a nearby tree. His cuffed hands were now in front of him.
“He can’t see good at night, but he can definitely sense your movement. Stay put.”
Trevor moved a few awkward steps to his right and then reached down to the ground. Something jingled as he got back to a squatting position. The thing behind me bellowed a horrific, curdling sound. It sent shivers down my spine. I reached around and grabbed the butt of the gun. I stopped as soon as the shrieking ended.
I had lost sight of Trevor. I knew the thing was on the move again, but still couldn’t gauge how close to me it was. The shrieking began again. I tugged on the gun and sat straight up. With both hands, I held the gun in front of me. It took every ounce of strength to keep my pants clean as my eyes tried to make sense of the horror that befell them.
The beast, hairless, with a snout similar to a dog, had two top protruding fangs. A row of smaller pointed teeth were exposed from its lipless mouth. I couldn’t look away from its deep set, glowing crimson eyes. It stood on its hind quarters, about five feet tall. Its arms were long and slender, ending in three sharp claws. The beast stood in the pale light of the moon, but part of it remained hidden in the shadows.
Crimson eyes stared down at me. If anger had the accompanying picture to better help define it, this would be it. Anger and rage were all that I could see in its eyes. I held the gun in both hands, sights on my target, but I didn’t shoot. I had never seen anything like it before. There was a foul smell that sailed into the air and into my nose. I closed my mouth as I tasted the odor on my tongue. It snorted and wheezed before me. It moved from foot to foot or paw to paw, left to right, as if it was in need of a good pee but was trying to hold it.
I moved slowly onto my feet, the gun teetered in my trembling hands. As I moved back, it stepped forward, keeping pace with me. I wanted to look around, to find Trevor, but I didn’t dare take my eyes from the horror that was right in front of me. It seemed like it was mocking me. It could have killed me at any time, jump on me before I ever had a chance to get a shot off. But it didn’t.
A flash of light hit the beast in the face. It shrieked and turned to its left and sprinted away.
I turned in time to see Trevor, cuffs free, shining the flashlight in the direction of the beast. My legs wouldn’t move. Trevor turned and ran up the trail. Fighting through my temporary paralysis, I pushed my legs forward. I didn’t dare look behind me. Trevor was halfway up the trail before my feet figured out that standing still was not in the best interest of staying in one piece and I began sprinting up the hill behind him.
My feet barely touched the ground as I ran along the dark trail. I was afraid I was going to break my neck on a fallen branch or rock but somehow I managed to avoid any hidden obstacles as I followed the trail of Trevor’s light. I imagined the beast, running behind me, on all fours, ready to take me down.
I skidded to a stop and nearly fell on my rear as Trevor made a sharp right onto another trail. I gave a quick glance down the path I had come and was thankful that no glowing eyes were looking back at me from the darkness. I started up the new trail, trying to keep pace with Trevor.
This new trail was steeper and it forced me to slow down. I had the soft glow of the moon to aid in my assent. The air was warm and the night was quiet. Other than the crunching of soft earth beneath my feet and the occasional grunt that escaped my lips, nothing else seemed to make a sound.
My calves began to burn. I fought harder to catch a breath. I always considered myself to be in good shape. But I also have never been chased by a monster, up a steep trail, in the thick of darkness. No gym around could ever prepare you for this type of exertion.
I caught up to Trevor as the trail leveled out. He looked around silently. There were a great many things I wanted to say but when you are running for your life, words were not the easiest to come by. He seemed to be looking for something. Shouldn’t we keep moving? Then something occurred to me.
“How did you know that the thing had poor vision?”
“What?” He asked as he continued to turn his head left to right.
“You said he couldn’t see very good. How did you know that?”
He stopped looking around. We were both out of breath. Panting between words.
“You were still alive and it was looking around. As long as you remained still, it didn’t seem like it could see you very well.”
“I am sure it smelled me. It knew I was there. It didn’t attack me. You know about this thing. How?”
“I’ve seen it before. I told you. What do you want me to say, Charlie? That I study this thing and that it comes from a different world. Seriously, Charlie, that would be nuts. We got to keep moving.”
We had reached flat land. There were trees all around us. A trail leading to the left into a grove of trees became our next destination. I thought about what he said. The beast did not look like anything I had ever seen before. I don’t claim to know what all the animals of the world look like, and I am sure I would be surprised at the appearance of some, but I also doubted that the likes of this beast had been seen by many eyes. This thing was too disturbing for no one to have ever breathed a word of it before.
But another world? I know he was being sarcastic, but I still couldn’t shake that notion from my head.
I caught a glimpse of a flicker of light up ahead. Trevor quickened his pace. Something jumped out from behind me. The ferociousness of its howl nearly made me soil my pants. I ran as fast as I could. The light up ahead drew my attention. I kept my head down, hoping I wouldn’t trip over anything on the ground. My legs kept moving. The panting and snorting grew louder.
The light blinked out but I ran toward where I thought I last saw it. Trevor was still ahead of me. I felt something at my heels. A burning pain ignited in my back as I was pushed forward. I fell hard to the ground, my head striking the hard dirt. Searing pain ran the course of my back. The beast ran past me. I lay flat on the ground. I could hear the snorting up ahead. The pain was intense. My entire backside was on fire.
I pushed myself up. The beast was coming back, charging on all fours. I reached around for my gun, but it wasn’t there. When I looked up, the crimson eyes were barreling down on me. Its sharp teeth was leading the charge. I braced for impact. The beast hit me with such force, it spun me around and I once again landed on my face. I rolled to my side. I couldn’t breathe. I got onto my knees. My abdomen burned. I brought my hand to my stomach. My shirt was ripped. Blood seeped out between my fingers.
I got back on my feet. I glanced down the trail where the beast had stopped. It stared back at me. It’s head down. Teeth bared. I tried to run up the path, attempting to put as much distance between myself and the beast from hell. Each move ignited a firestorm of anguish. Pain radiated throughout my entire body, preventing me from moving as quickly as my mind had wanted. I hobbled and limped. My hand on my gut, hoping beyond hope, I could find somewhere to hide. There was nowhere to hide. I staggered and lost my balance. I hit the ground again. The beast was on the move.
I lay at an angle on the ground, staring down as the creature approached slowly. It was sure of its prey. If the sheriff was just an appetizer, it looked at me like I was a 3-course meal. I blew dirt away from my face. Spittle dripped from my lips. I prayed it would be over quick. Its incessant breathing grew louder.
They say your life flashes in front of you when you’re facing a life and death situation. Nothing flashed before me. No thoughts ran through my mind. It was blank. At that moment, I couldn’t think of a single thing. I stared at the beast. My gaze was locked in the blood and drool that seeped out from its open mouth. It stopped a few feet from where I lay. Its crimson eyes stared back at me. It was savoring its next meal. I closed my eyes.
An explosion erupted behind me and my eyes sprang open. I saw the beast slink away to its left as another blast exploded in the night. The beast squealed as it back stepped. I rolled over. Trevor approached, both arms were extended. My gun in his hands. He yelled at me to get up. The blast of the gun still echoed in my ears.
I got to my knees, slowly, as the pain rifled through my body. He bent down and offered a hand while the gun was firmly held in the other. I grabbed his free hand with both of mine. As I got to my feet, my legs felt like rubber, but I managed to keep myself upright.
Back on my feet again, I felt dizzy. I knew I was bleeding. I didn’t know how much blood I had lost. There were no hospitals hidden in the woods and the last time I checked, neither Trevor nor I had any type of first aid kit. I was in serious trouble. He put an arm around me and I leaned on him. We headed up the trail. We stopped every few feet and Trevor turned to check behind us. I could barely see anything. I was cold and it was a struggle just to keep my feet moving.
“Keep up, Charlie. We’re almost there.”
I tried to reply but only a slew of senseless sounds escaped my mouth. As we walked, my head lobbed left to right. I couldn’t hear anything over my own breathing. Trevor carried me more than I walked. I looked ahead of us and saw the split in the mountain. The crevice we had walked through before: the cave. We could, at least, get shelter there, but I knew I would never leave. I had lost a lot of blood, as was evident with how heavy my shirt had become and how it stuck to my skin.
We stopped a few feet from the entrance. Trevor spun around, firing another shot. I lost my balance and fell to the ground again. The pings of pain shot through my spine like wildfire. I turned on my side. Trevor was standing in a shooter’s stance. The beast was a few yards farther down the trail. I couldn’t see if Trevor had hit it but it didn’t appear to be injured. However, it also wasn’t charging at us either. It just stood there, with what I could only describe was a smile on its ugly, disgusting face.
I pushed myself up on my hands and knees. Trevor hooked his hand under my right arm and helped me to my feet. He pointed to the entrance. I staggered but managed to keep on my feet until I reached the entrance.
“Go on. That thing isn’t going to stay still for long. Get in there.”
My eyes looked around for a moment. Everything was getting darker.
“Don’t give me the end of life look. You’re not going to die. Now move it.”
I pushed myself in, sliding sideways through the narrow passage until I reached the interior of the cave. It was dark. I took a couple more steps but couldn’t see anything in front of me. Out of nowhere, a quick flash of white light blazed through the cave. The light didn’t hurt my eyes but I could not tell from where the light had come from. It was as if the light didn’t come from anywhere, but everywhere. As quickly as the area was engulfed in light, darkness spread out to recover its territory.
Darkness surrounded me. Intense pressure began to build up behind my eyes. My stomach flipped on itself. I couldn’t see anything.
I sat down. The place began to spin. I closed my eyes, which only made it worse. Suddenly, a steady flicker of light engulfed the cave. I shut my eyes. My stomach turned. Head ached. Ears throbbed. I fell backward and curled up in the fetal position. I tucked my head close to my chest.
The ringing and buzzing rose louder in my ears. I prayed for it to stop. What was happening? The light flicked again, faster this time. It was as if someone had turned on a giant strobe light. There was a hum, low at first, but steadily rising. I held my hands over my ears. Eyes shut tightly. Knees brought up to my forehead. Oh my God, what was happening? A deafening shrill exploded all around me and then…silence.
Stillness. No sound. No pressure. The pain that was building in my head had faded. I was afraid to open my eyes. It wasn’t until I moved my hands away from my ears that I heard the voice. This wasn’t real. I kept my eyes closed, too afraid to open them. I didn’t want to see what I suspected to be real. The voice spoke again, calling my name. Did I die? Was I in heaven? The voice. So soft. So peaceful. So familiar. Becky. She called my name again. I opened my eyes.