Kaeleb

 

Kaeleb

 

The child was still locked inside of the animal cage when his mind snapped. When the event happened there was no sudden change in the boy. No crazed look appeared from nowhere, and no sounds exploded out of him. At least not at first.

Behind the boys eyes, his soul finally drained of all light. Worse than any physical pain a person could endure is the perpetual desire to die, and in that the boy did die. What little humanity had been birthed with him as instinct faded away, and something else remained. At that moment, something more than evil attained life…emptiness.

Between the desires of the brain and the guttural raw animal instinct there was only darkness. A void in which the animal within had no trouble crossing. A place with no moral life, and no conscious divide. For as long as he had been alive all he had known was pain, fear and hate. Nine years since being torn from his mother’s womb and not one instance where a moment of love had touched him in any way.

The burning pain of his existence swelled within his chest and doubled him over. His hands pressed against his abdomen and he looked down to see if they were on fire. His breathing was deep and uneven, his exhales forced and shaking. Knees pressed against hard wire bars, the child moaned in agony as his mind finally succumbed to a violent death.

It was then that the peace flooded in. A calm, cold peace that was a blanket of relief. The blanket covered him, and then went through him. It became him. The cold and the peace and the quiet still of emotional death was Heaven. Tense muscles that held the boy in a rigor type state relaxed. His entire body became one with the gray, peaceful loss of his sanity.

Eyes closed, his fists unclenched and he drew his fingers over the cold bars of the ground. The same bars extended into a cage around him. They were just as cold and the boy felt these too. His movements were slow and disturbingly graceful. His breathing became regular and hypnotic in its perfect rhythm.

He took in the scent of the blanket that covered his prison and marveled at how the dirt and blood smelled so rich and so pure. He wondered how he hadn’t noticed before. Deeper breaths and now he felt as though the peace would still the very beating of his heart. So intense was the pleasure that the child could not restrain a smile that began to slowly spread across his bruised cheeks.

The boy reached out to pull at the metal bars now and the smile became grotesquely stretched across his face; the boy struggled against the cage and screamed. This caused his breathing to become heavy and fast so he controlled these. Releasing the bars to gently run his fingers over their perfect cold reminder of peace the boy opened his eyes. As they dilated to black the child began to laugh.

***

The boy still knelt within the cage, his hands grasping at the bars to either side of him, when the old man stumbled into the blood-soaked room. Beneath the blanket the boy stopped giggling to listen to the sounds of trapped and terrified animals. It sounded as if the old man had caught some more rabbits. He listened to the old man drop the trap down into the room. Old legs wearing heavy boots shuffled along the floor now, creating suction sounds from the oozing gore.

The man was so old that it was a wonder he could lift the trap at all. With a loud grunt the old man tossed the cage into a corner, then kicked it a few times. The boy listened as the old man cursed the rabbits before reaching down to lift the blanket from the boys prison. The boy closed his eyes again, but not from fear. It was because the sound of the rabbit’s fear aroused him. Something dark inside of the boy reached out until its empty numbness filled the space within the boys flesh becoming one with the boy. Serenity washed over him and the boy breathed in deeply.

The cage door came open violently. “Get out here you stupid fuck,” one hand reached in to grab the boy’s hair, “Get the fuck out here and do your work,” the hands pulled and the boy came flying out from the cage. He landed face first in the dirt floor but he didn’t try to get up. Instead, he breathed in the dust and let his tongue came out to taste the soil. He took the soil into his mouth and rolled it crossed his palate. Before he could truly enjoy the textures the old man yanked him up again, but this time by the back of his neck.

The pain was so enlightening that the boy almost cried. He allowed the feelings of elation to overwhelm him and to combine with the peace. Time seemed to slow for the child as the old man ripped harder at his nape. He wanted the old man to tear the flesh completely off so he struggled a bit. Rather than squeeze tighter the old man threw the child across the floor. This time the boy landed on his knees, but that pain was not as enjoyable.

It was then that he noticed the new prisoners to his left. The boy furrowed his brow, watching them now and forgetting about the old man. The rabbits huddled together and shook so fiercely that it looked as if they were having convulsions. This made the boy smile. The longer he stared at them the more he understood them. For a moment, they almost seemed to be understanding him, too.

Suddenly a steel toed boot made contact with the boy’s soft belly. Not expecting the blow the boy fell to the floor and rolled to his side. Long hair wrapped around his waist and the child struggled with both the pain and his own body. He was looking at the ceiling now, his vision beginning to blur.

The old man had brought the Stick. Razors and nails hid themselves deep within the wood of the Stick; rusty edges, bent from hitting bone, jutted from its surface promising exquisite punishment for being born. The old man swung the Stick over his head with all of his might, the dull blades reflecting light from the dim lantern on the floor near the ladder.

Pain, physical pain, instantly replaced the peace that the boy had felt. So rewarding was the pain that a new soul formed itself in its glory. A new mind, a new being. A new anger. The fury that was his new soul exploded out of him faster than the old man could comprehend that he was about to die.

Leaping from the floor with impossible speed the child wrapped his body around the old man and bit into his neck. What strangled sounds found their way from the dying man’s throat were drowned beneath the child’s inhuman screams.  Claws dug into the back of the old man’s head until gray matter began to ooze from the holes. Impossibly wide jaws, revealing sharp and broken teeth, found the old man’s face, and then his eyes. They even succeeded in ripping out the old man’s trachea before the body could hit the floor.

Desperate for the calm, soothing emptiness of peace to return, the boy clawed at his grandfather’s scalp and hair, tearing away handfuls of flesh until there was nothing left but a glistening skull. The man’s neck was a gaping hole which the boy pummeled with his fists. More screams exploded from the boy’s panting mouth, which scared him. He had never felt so much excitement. The energy seemed as if it were bursting from his body and he was helpless against it; helpless to stop. His teeth ripped apart more wrinkled flesh, his hands finding lovely things to squeeze and mangle.

When the old man was dead several times over the boy sat back and tried to regain composure. His heart did not want to slow so the boy crawled back into his cage and curled into a fetal position. He rocked himself with his eyes closed until his dead mind finally lost consciousness.

Above the cage, dangling from a meat hook which had been driven into the dirt ceiling of the crude hand-carved cellar, a bundle of small animals hung upside down. They had been skinned and several large metal tubes that resembled straws were protruding from their abdomens. The small, broken bodies dripped liquefying innards through the metal tubes onto the blanket covering the cage below. One of the animals seemed to still be alive, its body writhing around in a slow motion dance with death.

The gore saturated the blanket and kept the cage wet. Kept it rancid. This didn’t bother the boy as he fell into the nightmares of slumber. Hours later, when he awoke, the peace had returned. It was this peace that gave him precision and control in what he did to the rabbits.

***

The woods were thick along either side of the old Canadian highway. Having nearly set, the sun did little more than illuminate the lush green hues of the trees. The thin, gray road seemed to stretch on forever, the dark shadows of the forest creating an ominous corridor around route 556. Darri tried to smile, but then she silently wondered whether a night in the woods was such a great idea. The strange look to the evening seemed more like a bad omen.

Frank seemed to read her mind, his words were edged in laughter but she could tell he was nervous, “You sure you want to research this Wendigo serial monster killer demon thing from mars…uh…I dunno…at night? We could always accidently wind up at a bed and breakfast [singsong voice] and start off first thing in the morning…” The dark haired man smiled and winked at his wife, “Or just pull over and, hubba hubba ….hubba?”

Darri slapped him jokingly on the shoulder. “It’ll be fine. You know that Wendigo don’t actually exist.”

“Then why go at night?”

“Because the footage will be more…creepy. More realistic. You know my teacher is a sucker for over the edge, no-one-else-has-done-it-that-way-before drama.”

“No wonder she can’t get laid.”

Darri punched Frank for real this time, muttering “Asshole.”

“Heeeey, alright, you’re right. It’s because she’s a dog-”

That was when the woman burst through the woods,  falling across the roadway in her panic. Frank reflexively slammed his foot down onto the brake. One hard yank to the left and the car fishtailed around the woman before completing a ‘360 which left them facing the direction they had just come.

Darri hadn’t screamed because her breath had caught in her throat. Black smoke rose up around the silver convertible like another dark omen. Darri threw both hands to her chest. She tried to inhale, tried to take a breath. Frank stared out through the windshield.

In the center of the road a woman pulled herself to her feet, her entire body covered in blood. Every square inch of her was red and it was the most terrifying image Frank had ever seen in his life. Everything appeared in slow motion as Frank tried to take his eyes from the gore to look at his wife. Check on her.

Suddenly, more movement from the woods and then there was another person. A man. The man was crawling. Frank tried to comprehend it and then time fell back in on itself. Sound returned and Darri was hyperventilating.

Frank grabbed her by the arms and shook her gently, “Look at me, look at me.”

She looked at him, because she trusted that he knew what to do when the panic overwhelmed her.

“Darri, breathe.”

Darri breathed.

More inhales and exhales and then Frank was holding her chin up, “Stay in this car. Stay inside this car.” His eyes held onto his wife’s face for one final second.

Darri nodded her head as he opened the car door. Stepping out, the bloodied woman raced for him and fell into his arms. Her screams made her incoherent but some of the words made sense. Darri understood the word ‘monster’ quite clearly.

Frank yelled into the car, “Call 911!” Darri tried to will her fingers to stop shaking as she pressed numbers into the cellphone. She misdialed twice before finally getting numbers right.

On the roadside, the man no longer moved. Frank pushed the hysterical woman to the rear of the car and hushed her, “It’s ok, it’s ok, I’m right here, I’m going to help you.” He took another look at the man who was slowly bleeding out and then told the woman, “Stay right here, I need to help him first.” The woman nodded furiously, her tremors making her teeth chatter. Her wracking sobs were almost a scream.

The woman watched Frank as he crossed the roadway towards the man. The woman pulled her torn, yellow sweater over her shoulders while repeatedly scanning the woods where they had emerged.

Frank knelt down beside the unconscious man. It looked as if something had clawed at the man’s back. Bitten him on the legs as well. What was left of the man’s jacket hung in shreds around his waist. The flesh was cut so deeply on his back that parts of the ribcage shown through. The white of the bone was a stark contrast to the vibrant red arterial blood.

Frank tore off his brown jacket and wrapped it around the man. In one fail swoop he lifted the man up and over his shoulder. The man was fairly light, but the blood soaked Franks shoulder and began to drip down his chest almost immediately.

One grunt, and one final adjustment of the body and Frank carefully walked back to the Corvette. He motioned to Darri to unlock the car, which she did after hesitating briefly.

The bloodied woman reached for the man who was obviously her companion. “Baby,” she kept chanting to him, “Jesse, baby don’t leave me,”

Frank struggled to get the man into the car. The man regained a bit of consciousness in the process and began moaning as the woman slid into the backseat placing his head on her lap. The light blue leather interior took on a morbid red zebra-striped pattern. “What’s your name?” Frank wasn’t sure what had made his voice work. Somehow everything they were doing was unreal, even the words.

The woman, possibly 20, never took her eyes from the man in her lap, “Amber. My name’s Amber.” She began to rock and sob to herself.

“Amber,” Frank made sure the woman looked up so that she understood him, “I’m Frank. Ok, now I need you to put one hand against his back and hold pressure there. It’ll  help control the bleeding.” Leaning inside the car he added, “You’re going to be ok.”

In the front seat, Darri was frantically pressing redial on her cell phone. The beeping reminder that they were out of range for service was echoing throughout the entire car. The rear passenger door slammed shut and almost immediately the driver’s door opened. Nearly slipping on the blood in the road, Frank did a comical dance as he caught himself from falling. He cursed, and then slipped into the front seat.

Darri’s voice was shaking, “We just go back to Heyden.” She motioned to her phone as her husband put the car in gear, “I know I had service a minute ago.” Frank could only nod. Around them, the forest seemed ominously darker than it had just a few minutes ago.

***

The impact of the Wendigo propelled the car violently off the roadway.  By the time the Corvette came to a mangled stop, it had hit the river. The river was thin, but with a deep and fast center. The vehicle began to race downstream and sink at the same time.

Frank couldn’t get his bearings. All he could see was water, foam and the flailing body parts of the other people in the car. The water quickly became red.

“Frank!” Darri sputtered, keeping her head  above water against the roof of the car. The car was rammed again, this time flipping it onto its roof at the river’s bottom. Frank reached blindly for his wife, but grasped at a door handle by mistake. Frank’s hand became wedged between the handle and the door, so when the creature ripped it from the car, Frank was thrown as well. He pulled his hand free, fighting the current and dove back down into the water.

Something large pushed by him on his way to his wife, and it screamed like a woman. Frank ignored the beast and felt nothing but the burning need to get to Darri. The car headlights drew him to the wreck and Frank forgot that he was underwater and screamed for his wife. All of the air exploded out of him, but he refused to surface.

Amber was the first to come through the hole where the car door had been, and she pulled Jesse through next. The man had begun to struggle. Darri didn’t emerge. Frank could see through the current that the car was empty, but he checked anyway. Lungs burning, vision darkening, Frank slipped into the car to take his gun from the glove box. He barely made it back to the surface. He immediately began screaming for his wife.

Amber was helping Jesse crawl up onto the river rocks, away from the water. She was sobbing, “It took her…it took her it took her,”

Frank continued to scream for his wife. He ran through the river as if he would find her floating along the shore line. Amber began to rock again, the man in her lap gasping for breath. “It took her…it took her…” her voice got a little louder, a little more hysterical each time she repeated it. In her eyes burned the realization that it could have been her.

Frank ran towards the woman, but fell several times. “What…what took her!? What are you talking about!? Where is she!?” His questions were tangled and confused. She didn’t need to answer him, though.

From somewhere in the woods came a guttural howl, so deep and so loud that it didn’t seem as if any living thing could have produced it. Frank was beside himself and his movements became erratic, “Okay, okay,” he repeated the phrase several times, his hands running through his hair trying to unravel his reality. “Shit…oh shit…ok…”

Another bestial howl in the forest and Amber screamed. “It’s coming back! It’s coming back!” The woman pulled at her partner and screamed at him to get up. The man tried, but his legs were weak. In a panic himself, Frank raced up from the shore to help Jesse stand. With someone on either side of him, the young man was able to walk.

“I’ve got to get back to the road,” Frank stopped walking and continued to look desperately around into the woods. “We’ve got to get help. I need to find my wife,” saying the words seemed to bring their situation closer to reality. “Jesus, I need to find my wife. I can’t fuckin help you people.” Eyes confused, Frank let go of Jesse and stumbled back to the river. “I need to get back to the road.”

Amber began to cry, “The road is across the river! You can’t leave us! Don’t leave us!” She was begging, but Frank only heard the sounds of his wife screaming in his mind. It had been her screams under the water. He had let the…whatever the hell it was take his wife. He’d allowed it.

Somehow the sun had set while they’d been having their adventure. Frank wanted to laugh at this but then realized that might be a sign he was already losing it. “Darri!” he screamed her name. Even out of breath Frank kept calling for his wife, even when the sounds were ragged whispers. But then Amber was screaming his name.

“Frank! Frank, a light! Look, a light!”

Frank turned from the river and saw Amber pointing up the densely-wooded hillside. In the perfect darkness, quite a ways up, there was a small light. It almost looked to be coming from some type of dwelling. Quickly, he helped Amber and Jesse climb through the brush towards the light. With each step the darkness grew deeper.

Pausing for breath, Frank reached into his pocket for his cell phone. He was actually surprised to find that it was dead. The water had destroyed their ability to reach anyone in the outside world. And, the world was very, very ‘outside’. They were so far from the nearest town that they might as well be on the moon. As the gravity of their situation spiraled in around the cold, wet, bleeding survivors they made their way through the woods towards the light they hoped would be their salvation.

From the shadows, the young boy watched the people struggle up the hillside. The bones of the man in the middle appeared to glimmer. The gaping wounds across the man’s back held wonder and magic, and the boy was intrigued at how the exposed ribs moved with each step the man took. The child imagined the bones peeling themselves from the man’s ugly torso to dance in the moonlight. He imagined that the bones would bow to him, and then he would crush the skeletal dancer into dust. Excited from his hallucinations, the boy began to laugh.

***

Deep within the cavernous, yawning maw of the forest the boy crouched inside a small bush.  He watched from the shadows as the Wendigo pressed itself onto the woman. Her screams were muffled against the creature’s thick hide. The more she struggled the harder the creature forced itself into her. The woman was nearly naked, but this is not what aroused the boy. Something else in the air turned his head; something sweet.

Near the strange coupling, the corpse of a large moose lay rotting and decayed. The boy stared at it for some time  before hesitantly crawling towards it. He smelt the scent of its death and could almost taste it. Hands trembling, the boy brushed his fingertips along the soft fur of the dead animal’s nose. His fingers came to a rest at the eyes. Large, black and glistening, they reflected the moonlight as jewels. His fingers caressed the eyes and then the ears.

Something akin to love flared up within the child and for a moment he fought back tears. His own black eyes looked once more to the horror that the Wendigo was inflicting upon the human woman. Jealousy flared for a brief moment and then he returned his gaze to the corpse. He smiled at its beautiful eyes. He was enraptured.

When the boy removed the animal’s head from its body, the Wendigo jumped from the woman and into the darkness at the sound. Demon eyes burning through the blanket of night, the monster of legend circled through the trees for its new prey. Silence descended upon the clearing.

Suddenly alone, Darri knew not to scream. She stumbled to her knees and looked to run but nearly choked on her fear at what she saw emerging from the dark. The light of the moon gave new life to a nightmare. She couldn’t fully comprehend what she was seeing.

Moss covered horns appeared first, moving slowly and low to the ground. The child crawled into the clearing, smiling beneath the rotted flesh of his trophy. Wearing the head as a crown, old blood and rotted muscle hung from the animal’s severed neck. The tendrils of gore dangled down around the boy’s shoulders as the boy stood to enjoy the treasure he had found. Elongated arms tipped with sharp nails made the boy appear more ape-like than human. The child’s overly long legs bent awkwardly at the knees as he raised and lowered his body in a strange dance.

Darri remained still, begging her body to breathe, but too afraid to inhale for the sound it might make. She clutched her arms around herself, wanting to pull the tattered remains of her shirt over her bare shoulders, but too afraid to move. She knew the demon was in the woods, watching. She willed her body to be still, but it trembled and convulsed almost violently.

The boy lifted the decomposing moose head gently from his own. Darri realized he had been wearing the grotesque body part like an ornament. He continued to raise it until his long arms were fully outstretched above him. An offering to himself, in homage to this glorious night. The demon watched from the woods, curious and confused. It did not know of this new monster. It did not know its smell.

When Darri saw the Wendigo’s movements to her left, she ran. Rather than run uphill, she knew to run down. The demon had dragged her up the mountain, she remembered that much. She acted, rather than thought.

The boy did not see the woman run until she was on top of him. With both hands she pushed the child, knocking the gore-filled animal head from his hands. He landed on the ground with a sickening thud, pulling Darri down with him. She struggled free just as the Wendigo landed above the boy so hard that the ground moaned.

Her movements frantic, Darri clawed at the ground until she was moving forward and kicked herself into a dead run. She didn’t feel the trees as they reached for her, tearing her skin. They slapped against her face, but all she felt was blind terror. Her screams seemed to be pulled from her and she could not stop them. She ran and ran and when she fell she crawled until she was running again.

***

The creature that looked like a child stared down into her terrified eyes. It had caught her from behind, somehow pinning her to the forest floor. Darri tried to scream, but only a choking gag gave her fear a voice. The creature seemed excited. Its pale face was flat and round. What little nose the thing had was more like a fleshy triangle with holes. It bent down to sniff at her eyes, and then her hair.

The creature’s own hair fell around them both in soft waves. The hair was strangely warm and comforting. The creature’s smile was what finally gave Darri the ability to produce a full scream. Its mouth was overly wide and when the creature began to grin, four rows of bloodied and broken teeth stretched out across its entire length.

Looking up, Darri could almost see her reflection in the boy’s large, black eyes. Reflecting moonlight back out into the world like mirrors, they shifted anxiously across the different areas of her face, not being able to settle on one feature. The creature made some strange sounds and then its tongue slowly came out. It looked as if the tongue had been sliced and cut into strips. Each strip moved independently of the other.

Suddenly Frank was there, and she was in his arms. Strong arms that were warm and perfect and she cried so deeply that she couldn’t breathe. Frank pulled her up, throwing the large tree branch that he had hit the creature with into the dark woods. Wrapping an arm around his wife, he half-carried her through a grove of trees into another clearing. Amber stood in the doorway holding the candle they had found burning in the cabin.

Old and decrepit, a set of three wooden planks formed crude stairs to the front door. Not realizing how weak her legs were, Darri stumbled up them until Frank carried her the rest of the way inside. Amber shut the door behind them, but there was no lock.  The door was nothing more than some plywood nailed to rusty hinges.

The small cabin had one room. A set of chains on the floor at the back of the cabin looked to seal a set of cellar doors. The dim light of the candle didn’t stretch far enough to reveal the mangled bodies of the animals near the back.

Jesse sat next to the front door, leaning against the wall. He took Franks jacket off his chest and held it out to Darri. Even though it was covered in blood, she took it without even looking at it. Her eyes darted about her as her pale arms slipped into the sleeves. She didn’t seem to be aware that Frank was talking to her for a moment.

“Honey, God, sweetie, look at me. Look at me. Darri, look at me.”

Darri finally looked at him as if he had appeared from thin air. “Frank?” She looked at him so intently that no one in the room moved. “Frank?” And then she fell into his arms again, remembering he had saved her.

“Yes,” Frank repeated, smoothing down her hair. From outside, they could hear the sound of something angry, something not human, tearing through the woods.

“Oh God,” Amber nearly dropped the candle, but then took a deep breath to steady herself and placed it on the ground against the wall. She moved her body away from the door and crouched low to the ground against the shivering body of her husband. Jesse reached over with his good arm and held her tight. “It’ll be alright, baby.”

She neither accepted nor denied this statement. Her eyes were somewhere far off for a moment, “We couldn’t afford to backpack through Europe…” her reflection was followed by a small, disconcerting giggle that turned into a whimper. She trailed off as everyone grew silent. Amber’s eyes looked to be pleading with some sort of God, and she looked up into the air as if she might find one, “My mother used to tell me,” the trembling woman stopped to hold her husband who had a brief coughing spell. When his choking subsided she continued, “My mother, she used to tell me that the only monsters in real life were human.”

Careful to be quiet, Frank undid his belt and slipped off his pants. He handed them to Darri, motioning for her to put them on. She did so gladly, covering up her bloodied and broken lower body. He helped her cinch the belt so that the pants would stay up and then slipped her feet into his socks.

Amber continued while everyone watched her strange expression, “She said that the only monsters in the world are the people that create them. So…I keep trying to make myself believe that the thing out there is just a sick, sick person. But…it’s…it’s not, is it?”

When his shoes were back on, Frank stood slowly while the snapping sounds from outside grew closer. With only a pair of long boxers to protect his legs, Frank realized just how vulnerable he really was. No one noticed the hand gun until he brought it out into the candle light. He’d been careful to keep it from view as to not scare his wife. She hated the thing, but she was glad for it now.

Amber couldn’t take the sounds. She pushed her fingers into her long, blonde hair and then pressed them against her ears. “Make it stop,” she whispered to no one. Jesse pulled her closer and they waited for something to happen. They prayed for nothing to happen.

Suddenly, a wave of curiosity struck Frank and he reached into his pocket for his cell phone, only there was no pocket. Feeling foolish, which was a brief reprieve from fear, he whispered, “Hand me my cell phone,” to Darri. She fumbled around with the pockets until she found the water-logged device. Frank took it with a brief prayer. “Please, God…please…Please cell phone God,” and miraculously the phone lit up with the familiar droid sound that meant power was restored.

Everyone in the room did a silent jump and squeal-type movement while they anxiously awaited their fate. The little metal box in Frank’s hand would determine whether they lived or died. The room was so tense that it drowned out the sounds of the monsters in the woods. When the phone finished booting up, and the screen saver popped on, Frank began to cry. He didn’t mean to, it just happened.

With trepidation he touched the screen, daring to believe it would respond. It did.

“911, do you have an emergency?”

Frank broke down, his body physically collapsing onto the dirty, wooden floor. “Dear God, please, yes, we’re lost-”

“You’ve got to help us, it’s going to kill us!” Amber began to shout the words but then caught herself, slapping both hands across her mouth  at the noise she had made.

“Sir, are you alright? Do you need medical attention?”

“Ok,” Frank breathed. His words were forced, his mind running in circles, “We’ve, there’s been an accident. And, there’s something in the woods,”

“Sir, where are you?’

Frank made a sound that was more like a mewing noise, “I…” he then looked to Amber, “I don’t know.”

“Sir-”

Darri reached down and took the phone from Frank, “We were on 556, just out of Heyden. I don’t know, maybe a few miles. Our car was knocked…I mean we swerved and went into the river.” Her voice was not so strong now, “Please, there’s something in the woods, please, please hurry please.”

Frank took the phone back from his wife. He had regained some of his composure. The question had brought their situation crashing into crystal clear clarity. They were alone. Even if someone found the area in the highway where they had been attacked, how would they find them in the woods? It would be morning before a rescue party was even formed.

The sounds in the forest stopped. The silence was deafening. What had sounded like dinosaurs crashing around gave way to a disturbing lack of noise so thick that the air seemed to have formed a vacuum of sound. Frank had been about to put the phone on his ear, but the immediate stillness took him by surprise. They all froze, only their eyes moved. The voice on the phone became muted and dull. “Ma’am…sir, can you hear me. I have personnel on the way. Can you tell me…” and then the voice was so dull that only a warbling wave of noise could be heard through the cell phone speaker.

The silence was so thick that Frank could almost hear the beating of his own heart. He was suddenly very aware of his breathing. He counted three, very strange sounding breathes, before the wall to the left exploded.

The demon was so large that its elongated head was lost in the darkness of the ceiling. Its body was partially covered in long, white hair. The hair was soft and moved like silk. What could be seen of the hide showed that the creature could bleed, because its muscular chest had small, oval wounds all over it. The wounds dripped with a rich and dark substance that could only be blood.

He hadn’t notice Darri reach out to grab him until her fingers were clenching the flesh on his side so tightly that she drew blood. Though he felt the pain, he didn’t understand it. He wanted to shout, to make noise, but everything moved in slow motion. His arms, his voice, even his thoughts were sluggish.

His mind tried to grasp at the enormous monster that was unraveling itself from the floor, turning towards them now. In the beast’s right hand, Amber’s body was twitching in a morbid dance of death. Her glazed eyes were dripping tears of blood, and bits of brain matter dripped from a large crack in her skull that extended to her mouth.

With no warning, the monster let out a furious howl and then burst from the cabin to disappear back into the bowels of night. Something wet dripped down from the shadows of the ceiling,  but the light in the room was not enough to illuminate Amber’s broken body from where it had been stuffed into the rafters.

Frank couldn’t understand how things were moving so slow, but yet so fast that he couldn’t react. Darri stood, silent, watching the gaping hole that used to be a wall. She was immobile from the shock of disbelief that she was still standing there. The beast had taken someone else. She didn’t think about what the Wendigo had done to Amber, she would think about that later. All her mind understood now was that she was still there.

Frank was aware of his breathing again, but sound had returned. Time had also returned. Both brought him to his senses. Outside, there was a snapping of dead tree branches, a rustle of brush. Jesse began to scream, “What the fuck…that fuck-” and he stood so fast that the resulting head rush nearly toppled him over. Frank reached over without thinking to help hold him up. Jesse shook off the vertigo and pushed Frank away. “That fucking fuck,” Jesse limped to the door. It was almost comical to see him open it and take the stairs when the entire wall to the left of it was laying on the ground.

Frank grabbed the distraught man by his bicep, “No man, wait. Just wait, what are you going to do? It’s pitch black out there!”

“I’m gonna fuckin’ kill that fuck I’ll fuckin’ kill it-” Jesse was chanting the words more than he was answering Franks question. Jesse pulled against Franks hand and tried to go down the steps but Frank held him tight.

“You’re not going out there!”

Jesse’s arm was still slick with blood from his wounds so his arm popped out of Franks grasp. The man fell forward out into the patchy grass of the clearing that comprised the yard. Frank began to step forward to help him when he saw the boy. The light of a half-moon did little more than to reflect dully of off pale skin. Some sort of canvas sack was cinched around the boys waist. It looked almost like the child was wearing a skirt.

Jesse also looked up. He also saw the child.

The boy was more like a fairy tale creature than a human. His skin was incredibly pale, and his limbs were too long for his body. The child stood quietly at the edge of the clearing, about twenty feet away from Jesse who still lay prone in the dirt. There were no obvious movements but the boys child-like body seemed to sway in the small breeze.

The boy’s hair was like gossamer. Silken strands of reflective silver waves danced with every breath of the wind. So fine and thin that the hair disappeared with the stronger currents. So long that it reached the ground. When the breeze stilled, the hair draped across the boy’s shoulders, spilling down around him like a mirrored robe. When the breeze picked up, the hair was taken with it and the robe vanished leaving the oddly proportioned child to appear naked.

White skin on the round face of the child held a grotesquely large smile that was so wide it threatened to shear his head in half. Several rows of broken teeth with needle tips were bleeding and encrusted with dirt and grime. The boys eyes were large and black, almost alien.

The breeze paused and the child’s hair drifted back down over its body and face. This broke the spell that the men had at the child’s visage and Frank rushed down the steps to grab Jesse. He tripped on his way down which caused him to panic. He cursed himself and grabbed at Jesse’s leg, “Get up!” and then he scrambled back to his feet.

Darri was in the doorway and screaming at them under her breath. It was more of a growl, “Get in here, Frank get in here!” She could see the child, too. It was the child from the woods.  She remembered the Wendigo landing atop the boy before she had escaped. Then she thought back to the strange marks on the demon’s body when it had taken Amber. They were bite-marks.

She stared at the creature while Frank and Jesse both raced back into the cabin. “What the fuck is that, what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck, ” Jesse was out of breath but still he ranted on.

The child never really moved, it just watched them and smiled. That was more terrifying than if he had attacked them. His inhuman smile and black holes for eyes was almost worse than…

Frank slammed the door, startling Darri who had been transfixed. She jumped and clutched at her jacket. At Frank’s bloodied jacket. She seemed to realize it was bloody all of a sudden and a look of disgust appeared across her face. But, it was either that or be naked. She looked at her husband, but his shirt was even more bloody than the jacket she wore. Jesse had no shirt at all.

“Jesus!” Frank began to pace as Jesse slumped back down to the floor, his sobbing head slumped into his hands. “Was that a fucking kid?”

Jesse jumped back up when he remembered his wife, “I don’t care what it is, it has my wife!” Jesse reached for the door but Frank pinned his shoulder against the wall before he could open it  again. “You really want to be a statistic, friend?”

Jesse spat back, ” I really want to save my wife, friend.”

Just then, what was left of Amber’s body dropped from the rafters onto the floor in front of her husband. When Jesse was done screaming, he ran out of the cabin into the arms of his fate which was waiting at the foot of the steps.

***

They decided to try and hide in the cellar. Their hope was that sunrise would bring help; they just needed to survive that long. When they neared the trap door to the cellar, what Darri saw made her vomit. Her gag reflex took over and she threw up all over the floor. Frank just stood there, wondering why it didn’t smell worse than it did. In fact, there really hadn’t been that much of a smell until they’d gotten close.

The bodies were piled five feet high in some areas. All of the corpses had been skinned and most were unrecognizable. One of the larger carcasses was obviously a deer, while another looked to be a young girl. Most of the bodies were small animals ranging from squirrels to frogs. There was no order to the madness; some bodies looked fresh while others looked to be mummified. There were older corpses on top of fresh remains, and fresh remains over mummified remains. The only thing that they all had in common was their lack of skin.

“Dear God,” Darri cried.

“God?” Frank whispered, his eyes unable to remove themselves from the magnitude of carnage.  His eyes welled up with tears when they came across the bodies of the children, “God has left this place.” he swallowed hard, choking back a new form of grief, the likes of which he had never known. “…there is no God here.”

Darri held her arms against her stomach. The hinged piece of wood that marked the cellar door  sat near center of the cabin. Frank tried to take his eyes from the piles of decay, but it was almost impossible. His mind seemed glued to the morbid array of death.

The trap door hatch was hinged on one side with round brackets nailed randomly to its surface through which chains were run through. Frank thought it was strange that someone would want to chain the cellar closed from the outside. He pulled the chains from their place over the hatch and threw them aside. They slid across the greasy wooden floor of the cabin, sliding to a stop into the stomach of a skinned bear. The sound it made caused Darri to throw up again. Even Frank cringed.

It took some muscle to finally pull open the cellar door. The stench that blew up from the black hole beneath nearly toppled him over. “JEEEZUS!” His hands flew to his nose, his entire body recoiling from the stench. “What the hell?!” Frank had to slam the hatch shut.

“What’s happening, Frank?” Darri asked the question but  her eyes didn’t look as if she were ready to accept the answer. This is when the 911 operator, still on the line and forgotten about, began recording the event.

Frank sat at the closed cellar door for several moments. He did not move, he did not reply to his wife’s questions. He was lost inside of his own head, as his rational mind wrestled with his sanity. Fear gripped him so voraciously that movement was an effort. Breathing was an effort. The fear muted sound and dulled the flow of time.

Jesse appeared at the foot of the makeshift stairs then, adding to the cyclone of terror that both Darri and Frank were trying to deal with mentally. Jesse’s movements were strange. It reminded Frank of how a puppet moved when pulled by strings attached to its body. Jesse moved like that now. Slow, cumbersome.

There was something wrong with his eyes. They were overly large, and blood ran down his cheeks in the place of saline tears. “What the…” Frank trailed off the words. He watched, unable to comprehend what he was looking at, as another pair of legs slipped out from behind puppet-Jesse. This pale, long set of legs climbed the stairs, dragging puppet-Jesse’s legs behind it.

Puppet-Jesse couldn’t climb the stairs, because puppet-Jesse was dead. The holes that used to be his eyes were bore through all the way to his brain. Or, what was left of his brain. Frank’s breath caught in his throat and he no longer cared about the smell in the cellar. He reached down and threw open the hatch. The stink of the dark cellar was welcoming.

***

The boy had a hard time walking the body up the stairs. It was a bit of a struggle so he did not notice Frank and Darri disappear down into the cellar. It hadn’t taken him long to pull the bones out of the man’s skin. He’d had lots of practice with the animals that the old man used to drop into his hole.

He had to keep his head turned sharply to the right so he could breathe. Every few breaths, he would press his cheek into the padded lung tissue. The soft, warm flesh was soothing. Finally he made it up the stairs and through the doorway. It was dark inside the cabin but the child could see with perfect clarity.

He did not understand where the man and woman had gone. Behind him, his long white hair glistened like liquid silver. When he realized that he was alone, the boy dropped the dead body.  The legs of the corpse folded neatly in two while the rest of it slumped to the floor. Inside the cabin, the wind let go of its effect on the boy’s hair and it fell down about him in a beautiful, soft wave.

The night became peaceful while the child looked around for the woman he had seen in the woods with the demon. He wanted to smell her and do to her what the Wendigo had done. He wanted to own her.

Slick, fresh blood covered the boy from head to foot. The ends of his hair curled and became red. Parts of his hair began stick onto his body as the blood soaked into it. The child waited for the woman as if the woman would reappear from thin air. He wasn’t sure why he stood there, but it felt good to be still.

***

It had been at least an hour since they’d come down and hidden in the hole. Neither of them had moved nor spoken, they just sat against a dirt wall holding each other; waiting for death to open the cellar door.

When Frank had closed the hatch to the cellar he had wedged his gun into the handle. The nose of the gun was dug into the dirt, creating a sort of lock. Now, secure within the small room which had been the boys prison for nine years, Frank used his cell phone for light. There was no reception in the cellar so the last thing that the 911 operator heard and recorded was Darri screaming, “Dear God, what happened to his eyes!?”

Frank turned his cell phone towards the room so that they could get a look at their hiding place. There were some metal animal traps scattered around the room and one large cage right in the center. It was a wonder they hadn’t tripped over it. It was big enough for a small human and that bothered Frank because there was a blanket over it.

Darri finally whispered to Frank, her voice so low that it was almost inaudible, “Where’s your gun?”

He aimed the light of this cell phone up towards the cellar door, gently illuminating the old wooden ladder. Darri grabbed the cell phone and turned it upside down, “It’ll see the light!” Her voice was almost more than a whisper now.

“Shhhh!” Frank hushed her and took the cell phone back.

“Why did you leave it up there? Why is it up there?” Darri was franticly wanting the gun.

“What was I supposed to do? I had nothing else in my hands.” Realizing that they were both beginning to fight out of exhaustion he lowered his tone, “Look, I stuck it in the handle so the door can’t open from the outside. Okay? Whatever’s out there can’t get in here now. ”

Frank really began to worry about the covered cage. “Look over there, do you see that?” Frank directed the light of his cell phone over to the cage. The blanket covering it was brown and thick with blood and who-knows-what other type of bodily fluids.

Dari really wished they had the gun. She looked around for some sort of weapon to defend herself with but the dirt room was bare except for the smaller cages. Realizing that something was better than nothing, she walked around the covered cage to pick up one of the animal traps. She raised it up motioning that she would smash whatever was in the cage in the head if it came out.

Frank steadied himself to lift the blanket. He hoped that the cage had a door that was shut and locked. Rather than whip the blanket off of the cage he lifted the corner slowly in case whatever was inside happened to be asleep. But there was nothing inside. Other than an old chewed up Bible and some sort of leather journal, the cage was completely empty.

They both breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that both the cage was empty and that they had made no noise. Carefully and extremely quietly Dari put the small trap back on the ground. Frank looked down at the journal in the cage and reached in to pick it up. He almost vomited from the feces piled up in all the corners. The smell was so bad that he couldn’t take in a breath.

Once he had retrieved the journal he quickly pulled his head out and retreated to the far corner of the room. The stench in the cage had been overwhelming. The journal had bloody fingerprints all over it on several of the pages. It looked as if someone had gone through the journal really fast and some of the pages were missing. They were torn out and some were simply too smeared with blood to read.

The middle of the journal told of a young girl and of a hunting trip in the mountains. Frank skipped through this, wondering why a little girl’s diary would be in a bloody cage under a bloody cabin in the middle of the forest. He noticed a change of handwriting towards the end of the book

“Look at this,” Frank whispered to Darri, “It looks like someone else wrote in this kids journal. It’s dated almost ten years ago.” Darri stepped beside her husband, nuzzling into his side for warmth. Together, they read the first strange journal entry.

 

“I found my daughter today. Though my wife was killed, whatever Christian God lays claim to my wretched soul spares me my only child. I’ve seen the face of the devil. Though it was not the Christian’s devil. This devil was of the world and its existence here is proof that there is no Christian God. What God would create such an abomination and then allow it to feed and hurt his children?

 

When my daughter began to birth the wretched, vile creature that she had been impregnated with, her eyes began to take on an ungodly red hue. I looked into them and it was as if molten lava flowed beneath the flesh of her iris and I knew she was no longer my daughter.

 

The child began to claw its way from her and she began to bleed out. The wretched thing became stuck and I had to place my daughter into the cage but she would not stay. I took several ax handles and slipped them through the bars of the cage until she was restrained and could not come out. She kept reaching out of the cage and thrashed against the ax blades. In the end both of her arms were nearly severed completely off, of her own accord.

 

I pulled the child from her womb and, as she died, a small creature that resembled a child (but I knew it was not a child) began to eat the placenta as it slipped from between my daughter’s legs. I put it in the cage with its mother and locked the door and threw a blanket over it. I have not been back to the cellar. I know it is alive because I can still hear it screaming. It will occasionally stop screaming and that is when I hear the other sounds. The chewing sounds.

 

Even as I write this I cannot believe it is true. Perhaps this cabin holds the souls of all the animals I have ever hunted through the seasons. Perhaps it is the animals themselves that have come to seek vengeance. I wanted my wife and daughter to see the great Hunter, and in the end I had to hunt them.

 

I must attend to my grandson, the spawn of the devil.  But still, the child contains a piece of my daughter’s soul as well. My only child, my love, she’s gone from me now. Only the beast remains.

 

So does the demon who sired it. I will hunt the demon, if it means I die trying. Meanwhile, I must deal with the abomination in the cellar.

 

God, please wake me from this nightmare.

 

The next entry wasn’t until three years later. Frank didn’t allow Darri to read anymore because the rest of the journal was nothing but a grisly account of the physical torture a crazed grandfather was inflicting upon a little boy. Frank closed the book and threw it across the room. He wasn’t thinking, he was just acting. At the sound he realized the grave mistake he had made because another sound followed. This sound came from up above them.

Frank muttered “Shit,” before the hatch to the cellar began to shake. Whatever was above was trying to get below. It had heard them. More and more violently the creature above pulled and shook at the wooden planks. Frank could see that the gun was about to fall free and that the hatch would open.

Darri did not care about the smell inside of the cage any longer. She ducked behind the cage and pulled the blanket over her head. She knew this would not really keep her safe but her instinct overcame her sense of judgment. Frank made his own decision and then jumped up, grabbing the ladder with one hand and the gun with the other.

The hatch flew open when Frank had the gun in his hand and he fell backwards onto the dirt floor. The impact knocked the wind out of him and he laid there trying to breathe for a moment. The child jumped down into the cellar where the cell phone light was aimed into the cage. At the back of the cage, Darri’s eyes were wide from behind the bars. The boy’s smile was so large that his enormous black eyes were lifted up. His gaping maul was so full of broken teeth that when the child smiled he did not look human.

The child stopped, crouched, and then it leapt. Like an animal the child burst forward at the woman but rather than embrace her he found himself in the cage. Frank was faster than the creature and he slammed the cage door shut before the creature could turn around and come out. He locked the cage, and for a moment he couldn’t believe their luck.

***

Darri had fallen back away from the cage and was against the wall, hyperventilating. She was chanting Frank’s name over and over. And then the child grabbed Frank’s lags and pulled them out from underneath him. In a panic Frank took the gun and fired four shots into the monster’s chest and one into its head. It was all he could do to restrain himself from firing another shot. He reminded himself that he might need those bullets for the other monster in the woods.

Darri was screaming and Frank quickly pulled his feet out of the claws of the child. He also tossed the blanket back over the front of the cage to hide the evidence of the abomination from the journal. The irony that the child had died in the very cage he’d spent his whole life in was not lost upon Frank. There was a brief moment of pity, but then he rushed to his wife and wrapped his arms around her.

Helping Darri to stand, Frank bent down to pick his cell phone up from the dirt floor. With half of its battery life remaining, Frank began to have hope. Both of them looked up at the same time to the square of pale darkness above the old ladder that marked the way out. Darri heard Frank’s voice in the darkness as he turned the cell phone off. “We need to save the battery for the morning. We’ll get to the road-”

Darri wasn’t sure what made her giggle, “It didn’t work on the road…”

Frank was quiet.

Darri wanted to crawl out from the stink of the cellar but her brain screamed at her to stay and hide. Finally she spoke, “That other…thing is still out there.”

Frank whispered back, “I can’t be in here,”

A moment of silence and then Frank told her, “We can try and make it here until morning. People will come.” But, in the end his fear overtook him and he took the cellphone back from Darri and turned it on. There was no reception in the cellar, but he was able to get one bar if he stood at the top of the ladder.

“9-1-1, do you have an emergency?”

Never before had the voice of another human being sounded so sweet. Franks voice cracked, “Yes, we called earlier,”

“Sir, we have men in the woods right now. We found your vehicle in the river. Sir, can you tell me your location?”

Frank nearly screamed from joy. In the distance he could hear the sound of a helicopter. Darri heard it to, and she rushed towards the darkness where Frank stood on the ladder. Before she made it to her husband, a horrific pain knotted her abdomen and she grabbed her stomach and doubled over. Wracking pain shook her body and for a moment her vision became crystal clear. It was as if a white light suddenly lit up the small room; she could see everything perfectly.

Vertigo suddenly overtook her and she threw up again, so nauseous that she couldn’t even speak. It was a moment for she could regain herself while the entire time Frank was asking her if she was okay.

“I’m fine,” Darri told him, but there was something happening. Something was changing inside of her. Beneath her hands and within the darkness of her womb there was the fluttering of a heartbeat. It became steady; and then faster and faster until its rhythm was resounding in Darri’s ear. Her body was warm and Frank watched from the ladder as her eyes flashed a brilliant red in the darkness below. A voice that was not her voice told Frank, “…everything will be just fine.”

The 911 operator hadn’t begun recording the call yet, so no one believed her when she verbally recounted what she’d heard over the phone that night. She took her own life three days later.

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