It was a full moon that night, of course. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s kind of foolishness to go walking through the woods at night, but I could SEE, you know? And I’d played in that section of the woods when I was a kid, so I knew it pretty well. A few new fallen down trees here or there, but largely it remained unchanged from what I was familiar with.
But when I came over the ridge to cut along toward the path down the slope on the other side, the big furry creature crouched on all fours on some sunken boulders, head tilted back to look up toward the moon? THAT was new. It was big, and furry, and I could see pointed ears and immediately stopped to go back the way I came (because hi, I’m not a complete moron, I’m not going to fuck with a big animal on its own turf, especially a wolf). I’d gone too far though; when I stopped my sneakers were already on top of the pebbled scree that surrounds the boulders, and the little rocks scraped and scratched underfoot. A person wouldn’t have heard it, but this wasn’t a person.
The ears shot up, and its head swung around – carrying the top half of it with it, and I could see that it wasn’t JUST a wolf. A wolf has a trunk of a body with legs underneath and the head thrust forward upon its neck; this creature had a body far too much like a human’s, heavily muscled in a V-shape like a swimmer, crouching on bent back legs with clawed arms that reached out to curl over the tops of the boulders, its head atop its shoulders. It was all-over fur, and the eyes that glowered at me looked yellowy, set behind an elongated snout that curled back into a snarl.
That was all I saw before I took two steps back under the trees and turned to run. Behind me the snarl bellowed into a throaty howl that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and I just ran dodging between trees and shoving back through undergrowth I’d just gone through in climbing up the hill. I didn’t look back, although I could hear its… feet? Hands and feet? pounding into the leaves and the dirt behind me, getting closer. I didn’t look back, I just forgot to look out for one of the newfallen trees. There was a branch that stretched across the path and it sent me flying. I saw a hint of huge shadow looming over mind and for a quick, sure moment I knew that the thing had caught up with me and was about to land on me.
In a way it was lucky that I was falling downhill and landed headfirst on a rock in the path. My skull was cracked open and my brains spilling into the dirt before it landed on my body and started tearing into it. I know this because somehow I was knocked out of myself. I stood there on the path just downhill, and watched as my body slide under the weight of its landing, my skull wrenched further open and a bunch of my ribs cracking. With a snarl like the one it had greeted me with on the top of the hill, it leaned down and sank its teeth into my throat, yanking back to tear it out in a spray of blood and shredding flesh. Its head snapped back and I could see the gobbets of my own throat in its jaws before they disappeared down its gullet, and it bayed triumphantly at the moon that now dappled our bodies through the trees.
I wanted to vomit, but really, how could I do that? It was standing with one foot on my stomach, and after its wild cry it slid back to sink claws and fangs into my middle, yanking already-broken ribs out of the way as it delved into my cavity, jerking loose my entrails to get at the bloody richness of my kidneys and driving one hand up into my chest to find my heart. I guess it did me the favor of spilling my stomach as well as its half-digested contents for me, since I couldn’t. I could only stand there, watching, until it was sated and, with one last snarl in my direction, loped off from the hollowed, shredded remains of my body.
I stayed there by daybreak, wanting to cry when a couple of kids came up the path just like I used to and found my body, screaming bloody murder as they ran back down for help. I watched the emergency services come. I watched my remains get packed up, and I peered over the inspecting detective’s shoulder as he wrote “Death By Misadventure” on the pad attached to his clipboard, quickly repeated by the coroner.
I’ve stayed here for the full month since then, watching hikers and lovers and kids taking the shortcut over the ridge, watching the remnants of my blood sink into the dirt and wash away until the spot hasn’t even a bit of passing interest for stray dogs. People can’t see me. Regular animals avoid where I am standing, but they really can’t see me either. Only that thing could see me.
And you can see me. What’s bringing you up the mountain tonight?
This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, original artist unknown.
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