The Hunted

The bitter cold gusts ripped through the thermal underwear he wore underneath his camouflage, biting into his very bones. He had climbed into his tree stand about thirty feet up a yellow-leaved cottonwood and had huddled with his knees to his chest to fight the freeze. As he scanned the open field in the midst of the woods, the hunter admired the beauty of the frost tipped grass that reflected the full moon setting in the early morning. He thought he loved this time of year, but rumors of unexplainable occurrences and a thick fog seen in the distance inching its way closer advised him that he would not be out there long.

As the glowing moon dipped under the horizon opposite of the arriving fog, the hunter decided to peruse the scenery one last time before quitting the hunt or risk getting lost in the fog. In the final sweep, his pulse quickened. He noticed an odd silhouette against the fog about two hundred yards away to his front left. The twilight made his unaided sight untrustworthy, so he decided to put his binoculars to his stubbled face. The magnified, black figure had many details in shadowed darkness, but he could see the outline of the beast. The hoofed feet connected to what seemed to be abnormally long legs. The elongated fingers wisped in the breeze but came to a pointy end. Its stretched arms were connected to a thin torso, but the muscles bulged from its shoulders. As the hunter scanned up the profile, he distinguished the ears and the way they came to a point half a foot above its head. The only colors the creature reflected were white teeth that had as many edges as a band saw blade producing a menacing smile, and thin, blood red slits where pupiled eyes normally were. Just as the hunter gathered all of this information in the span of about ten seconds, the thing disappeared into the overcoming fog.

He slowly lowered his binoculars. The town wouldn’t believe that he had actually seen what was causing the unexplainable occurrences. He now knew how disfigured, gory stray animals dotted the main street after a full moon night. He now knew how a whole herd of cattle had been mutilated, their flesh strewn across a bloody field, their bones shattered into millions of pieces like broken glass. He now knew how a group of young grade schoolers taking a field trip to a quaint pumpkin patch had been mauled by what seemed to be a bear in a bear less part of the country, the bus offering no protection as it ended up like a crushed pop can.

Even though he knew the sun was peeking over the horizon, it only created an eerie glow through the fog. He decided to get down from the cottonwood. But as he looked down from his tree stand, he noticed the fog had crept to where he couldn’t see the ground. He thought he might stay, as quiet as a graveyard, in his tree stand, but the crashing of a fallen tree somewhere in the fog and the stench of death permeating his surroundings made him think differently.

The deafening break of the silence came opposite of the place his vehicle was parked, so he quickly climbed down the tree, leaving everything but his gun. As soon as he hit the ground, a sharp pain shot from one shoulder to the other causing him to lose his balance. He turned around as he fell and pulled the trigger at whatever was behind him, but the gun was still on its safety. It wouldn’t have mattered if the rifle had fired because the pain producer disappeared into the mist. He picked himself off of the ground and noticed a stark red streak melting the frost on the ground. He made his mind up as he turned his safety off that he wouldn’t be the next unexplained occurrence and hurried in the direction of his truck, the sweat on his brow only amplifying the cold. As the leaves crunched under his boots, he could hear branches cracking from all directions in the mystifying fog. One loud snap came only feet away from him, and he stopped to aim his gun into the haze.

The hush that surrounded him as he aimed stopped his warm blood from flowing through his body, making him ice cold. With the calm over the next few achingly long seconds, he became somewhat hopeful. But just as he lowered the gun, something soundlessly came from his right and knocked him clean off of his feet, the rifle flying into the unknown mist. A sting went from his knee to his brain, making him scream in pain but also making him become even more desperate. With a limp he began in the direction he thought his truck was, the fog seemingly clearing as the sun warmed the day. He couldn’t hear anything besides his own heavy breathing, taking in the putrefying smell. He was only a short few hundred feet from his truck when the black beast towered over him in his path. A demonic hand swept across his face, knocking him to the ground. His terrified cries magnified each time the sound of crushing bones echoed off the trees. The monster cut through the hunter’s skin and severed the veins as easily as a freshly sharpened band saw blade cutting through butchered meat. With one last violent crack, the sounds disappeared with the fog.

Now you may be wondering how I know every detail of this occurrence. The last surviving human did die, didn’t he? You see, I was watching the whole thing. I looked down from my solitary perch as my monster, yes my monster, crunched and swallowed the last bone as his back bristled. The reason why I am telling you this is because the creature looked at me one last time with his diabolic red eyes, looked deep into his creator’s soul, licked the last drop of blood from its lips, slowly turned into the thick forest, and was never seen again.

I should’ve known what would happen when I put the hooves of a dead goat, the wings of a dead bat, the teeth of a dead crocodile, the muscle fibers of a dead, crazed gorilla, and drops of my very own blood in the fire. My basement instantly smelled of the most decaying death you can imagine. The beast that limped from that fire had a meanness about it, but it obeyed my every command. It grew more evil with each act, starting with killing the dog that kept me up at night to eliminating my neighbor’s cattle herd. Then it started to do things I didn’t tell it to do. I awoke a fortnight ago to him getting out of his cage and followed him to that field of death, only watching because I knew my efforts could not save the hunter. Now, though, I don’t know where it is.

I feel like it will always be hunting, waiting for the opportune moment to kill again. It may be the thing that makes you wonder what’s in the cellar in your back yard or in the basement of your house. It may be the brief disturbance when you think something is peering around the corner, waiting to pounce when you least expect it. It may be the thing you think you see in the mirror when you look at your reflection and notice something stir behind you. It may cause the brief, cold tingling sensation along your spine that you are feeling at this very moment. But I have to quit writing, because it may be the thing that is breathing its warm, putrid breath on my neck right now.

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