This chapter is part of an ongoing collaboration with several wonderful authors here on Vocal Media, made for Judey Kalchik's Birthday Mystery Challenge. If you haven't read the first 5 chapters, I suggest you start with those. The links to those chapters and their respective authors are listed below:
All caught up? Great! Without further ado, here is chapter 6, written by yours truly. Enjoy!
Carter froze at the cabin’s entrance. That first scream had surely come from Megan, but the second -
“GET AWAY FROM ME YOU BASTARD!”
He broke into a run. That had been Sarah, no doubt about it. Her scream sent a shiver down his spine, causing his arms to break out in gooseflesh. There had been real terror in her voice.
He leaped from the cabin’s little patio and belted around the corner before skidding to a halt. Before him, the back of some hulking creature stood crouched on two legs, bent over like a hunchback and stalking toward Sarah; a predator on the hunt. Even in the dark, Carter could tell it was strong. Its muscles seemed to bulge outward from its arms and legs and stretch the fabric of the shirt it wore. Wild, dark hair sprouted from its over-sized head.
If it were a foot taller and green, it would look like Bruce Banner’s cousin, he thought.
It took a halting step forward. As it did, a terrible, high pitched keening came from deep within its throat. It sounded almost like the howl of a baboon, tinged with a sort of gleeful, child-like playfulness.
Christ, no wonder Megan peed herself. He thought his own bladder might let go soon.
The creature took another step forward, then another, all the while making that horrible sound. Sarah stepped backward in sync with it, brandishing the small bottle of gasoline in her right hand like a club. Her left hand kept clutching at something small in her pocket.
Carter tried to make himself move, but terror kept him rooted to the spot. It was taking every ounce of will he had just to stop himself from turning around and bolting the other way.
Coward! Useless, good for nothing coward! A warm tear leaked from his eye. What could he do though? Volunteering for this had been easy enough, he’d wanted to redeem himself in Sarah’s eyes for freezing up earlier, but he wasn’t brave. For god’s sake he was no hero! No one is asking me to be one, idiot! Are you just going to stand here and watch Sarah die?
The woman he loved. Sarah, who’d first befriended and then dated him, seen beyond his little quirks to the man beneath. Before she’d come into his life, he hadn’t had many friends. He was awkward in social situations, often making the wrong comment to the wrong person at the wrong time. Dealing with people wasn’t easy, even though he meant well. Sarah had seen around his flaws though. Loved him despite them.
The creature began moving faster. Sarah backed away, screaming, and for a moment, her wide eyes locked with Carter’s, pleading and afraid.
His paralysis broke. Carter ran forward bellowing, pulse racing, heart hammering in his ears. He twisted the cap off his own bottle, sprinting for all he was worth. “Stay the hell away from her, you ugly bastard!” Gripping the bottle tightly, he hurled the open end forward in a baseball pitcher's motion, squeezing the plastic center as the bottle came down. His aim was true. The gasoline spewed forth in a narrow stream and hit the creature’s head, soaking its hair and spreading down its back.
To his great surprise, that actually worked. The creature stopped mid-stride, its keening cut off. Carter’s hopes surged as it suddenly coughed and lurched to the side like someone who’d had a few too many drinks. It coughed again, sneezed, shook its great, shaggy head, and coughed again. The thing swayed on its feet, faltered, then steadied itself once more.
A low growl rumbled deep in its throat. It turned about to face him.
Carter flinched back, his mouth suddenly dry. The indirect light from the fire illuminated a face not even his worst nightmares had shown. Red eyes gleamed from humanoid features far to hideous to be anything other than a monster. Its skin sagged in great bulky folds like curtains under high cheekbones, as though melting away from the skull beneath. The nose was nearly non-existent, the top half appearing to have been sliced off, leaving only small bits of bone and cartilage to serve as a ghastly placeholder. Its matted beard only partially covered a neck spotted with angry red sores. Swollen lips had peeled back in an ugly sneer, revealing several yellowed and broken teeth.
When it moved, Carter only had time to realize it was much faster than what he’d thought when seeing it stalk Sarah. It bounded across the leaves and dirt, reaching him in what must have only been mere seconds. He’d prepared to fight a losing battle with the thing, but it side stepped and slid around him easily. Next Carter knew, something thin and wirey wrapped around the front of his neck and yanked backward, choking off his air and crushing his windpipe.
Carter panicked. His arms flapped about in a useless gesture of resistance. Trying to get his fingers under the wire was like trying to force them into solid rock. His right hand reached over his shoulder and grabbed a fistful of the creature’s beard. He felt something rip as he yanked, but the pressure on his throat did not subside. Shadows darkened his vision, his struggles became weaker. His eyes flicked up to Sarah, a look of frozen horror painting her once beautiful face.
He thought, Run, Sarah! Run and live.
Then he thought no more.
Sarah watched, jaw clenched and shaking from head to foot, as the creature gave one final, savage yank on the garrote wire. It sawed into Carter’s throat like a rusted knife, spilling blood but doing no real external damage, but a moment later she heard the grinding snap of bones, and Carter’s body went limp. The creature shoved Carter away with a satisfied grunt, where he crumpled to the ground, never to move again.
“NO!” The scream burst from Sarah’s mouth unbidden, raw and anguished. It felt as though a piece of her soul had been ripped out of her, leaving her insides torn and bleeding. Her legs found sudden strength and she lunged forward, blinded by tears, vision clouded in a red haze. “Not him, you freak, not him!”
Dear God, her last words to him had been so cold. He’d wanted to apologize, but she’d wanted him to leave her alone. Before that, she’d called him a useless sack. He’d died defending her, probably thinking she hated him. She’d never get to tell him the truth.
Still screaming, she twisted the cap off her bottle in unconscious imitation of Carter’s last moments, only she didn’t hang on to it like he did. It flew from her hand like a rocket, striking the creature horizontally in the chest before bouncing off and dropping to the ground. Some of the gasoline shot from the bottle’s mouth, soaking the creature’s arm. The rest spilled uselessly into the dirt and leaves below.
Snarling, the thing took a step toward her and kicked the bottle. It flew off into the shadows of the trees, spinning in tight circles as it went. The remaining dregs of gasoline inside scattered around in tiny droplets like sea spray. The scent of sulfur in the air was faint but unmistakable.
Something was different with the creature’s face, but Sarah couldn’t quite make out what that was because its bulk blocked most of the firelight. The lower right side around the beard and chin seemed off somehow. And I don't think its expression has changed since I first saw it.
Before she could contemplate what that meant, it lowered its head like a bull, gave that eerie, high pitched keen and charged. Too late Sarah remembered the lighter she’d taken from Mason’s lifeless body. No sooner had she pulled it out when the thing crashed into her, its powerful form throwing her into the air, just like the bottle.
Sarah landed on her right side at least 5 feet away. If not for the recent rain softening the ground, she certainly would have broken something. As it was, her ribs had probably fractured. She’d felt something give there as she’d landed, and couldn’t seem to take in a full breath without dizzying pain.
Struggling to her knees, she spotted the lighter on top of some leaves nearby. The creature keened again, closer still. Sarah swallowed down a sudden urge to sob and teeth gritted, reached for the lighter. A kick to her stomach flipped her flat on her back, flaring the pain at her side and leaving her breathless.
Eyes red as flame stared into hers as the creature straddled her prone form. Its weight pinned her easily. Sarah was helpless to do anything but wait for the end. Bending forward, it trailed a long finger along her jawline. Where their skin touched, searing heat burned under the surface.
Sarah found she still had enough breath left to scream after all.
Light flared in front of her eyes, blinding in intensity, and all at once the crushing weight was gone. The creature roared in pain and sudden fear. As her vision cleared, Sarah realized it was moving away. She sat up, groaning at the pain in her side, and spotted the creature running toward the safety of the tree-line, its right arm blazing like a bonfire.
Megan knelt down next to her and dropped the flaming piece of wood she held. Trembling, she grabbed Sarah’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “Do you think we got it?”
A few dozen feet away, another figure watched, unobserved, as Megan helped Sarah climb to her feet, eyes filled with cold and depthless malice.
For the next chapter, please see below from the amazing Amanda Starks:
About the Creator
Thanks for reading! I enjoy writing in various genres, my favorites being horror/thriller and dark/epic fantasies. I'll also occasionally drop a poem or two.
For a list of all my work, and to connect with me, go to www.kennypenn.com
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme