Chapter 1: First Night
The night air was humid and crickets were chirping in the tall grass beside the forest. The trees overlooking the forest were swaying gently in the wind. This was a Friday night in West Virginia. Birds migrated North for the Fall and preserved wildlife in the state national forests are hibernating for the season as well. A long stretch of road cut across the woods, with animals like wolves and stags walk along the road to get to other side of the forest. A road also considered to be owned to other private roads. Wolves howling in the distance along with a very strange yell that stood out...
Soon came a car. A badly beaten Honda Civic with most of the paint chipped off, traveling 250 miles out into the woods from Charleston. The car came to a slow crawl before finally stopping in the middle of the road. A man could be seen hitting his steering wheel in anger, cursing the Honda to death. He calmed down a bit and decided to step out of the car. "Goddamnit, I'm out of gas.", said the man. He went around to the trunk and looked inside for a gasoline container. He found he didn't have one with him. Then he remembered that he left it in the garage back home. His stucco trashy home he devoted appreciation to. He cursed again under his breath. An owl hooted in the distance, though the man couldn't tell where it was coming from. The forest was dark and he couldn't see past the tree line. He looked back down at the trunk after searching for the owl, and found only an empty trunk. His eyes darted back and forth and his breath had quickened, wondering what he was going to do.
Hip in style with George slim pants and a polo shirt, was Max. A mild-mannered gentleman who is pretty much a kiss ass when it comes to people. He was afraid of pissing someone off, so he leaves himself defenseless when people get on his ass about things. And when it comes to communication he would act submissive. He practiced well with being a "goody-two shoes". He was an expert in convincing people of his charm. Although, he rarely talks to anyone but himself. Most of the time now, Max talks to people after getting through several years from his fear of strangers. He needed therapy because of his paranoia. The sessions didn't help, but Max did well on his own.
Who forgets to fuel up before morning break or in the middle of an afternoon? Max felt like an idiot, knowing he would have to walk and abandon his car in the middle of the woods. He was trying to reach Linda's house. She had bought a private property not far from where he lived. She wrote a check for a good amount of money towards her own house. $250,000. She was able to take the remaining amount of money she had left and payed ahead of her mortgage so she didn't need to deal with real estate for next 8 months.
And now he was walking to her house. Regretting his lack of care for how much he was driving. He didn't bother to look at the gas meter. Why worry? He thought he would have more time to get gas if he did look. An innocent little faulty mistake. Each step was hurting his feet and he made it as twenty feet from his vehicle. He had gotten out his mini pocket light and used it to see in the dark. Unlike commercial routes with lots of trees in their town, these woods didn't have light poles. No shit, right? This is Virginia. No one is going to build light poles thousands of miles apart in the middle of the woods.
He knew better than the argument itself inside his head about the idea. His own thinking getting to him, he felt angry and wanted to dismiss the world as his favorite. As he was walking, the LED beam of the flashlight only created a thin band of light cutting across the darkness in front of him. He squinted and saw nothing but a paved road with a hollow bank of blackness he couldn't see past. He heard a howl that didn't sound like a coyote; No, it sounded like a human trying to be a large dog, dogs that like to howl at other dogs howling or at police sirens. He stopped walking; listened; And after a few seconds had gone by, he heard it again. This time it was closer.
His heart was now picking up pace with his fear. He could feel his heart drumming in his ears along with other sounds like crickets chirping; the wind blowing, and owls hooting erratically. He didn't know what to think. He heard it a third time, only it got even closer. He could swear he heard snarling afterwards. Once he felt the urge to turn around, he thought, "this isn't going to be my lucky night". When he did and aimed the flashlight his way, he saw nothing. He didn't hear anyone or anything running to him, he also didn't see anything in the distance. No silhouette. No shadow. And no more howling.
Max swallowed, his throat moving up and down, having to compensate with his large Adam's apple. He was sweating. On a cold night? He felt fear drifting away as he relaxed. Afterwards, he saw two small, slowly moving pair of lights, that looked to be a set of eyes. Only to find out it was headlights of another car. He felt he should thank god that luck really was on his side. As the headlights grew larger in the distance, he prepared to greet the person and block his way, thinking that he could help him. He waved the car down with two hands. He smiled as if to impose that he was nice person in need of assistance. He saw a male figure in the tinted windshield, but couldn't make out any features, until he stopped.
"Hey man, I was wondering if you could help me? I ran out of gas in my car and I am left stranded here. Do you have any spare fuel?", Max started out. Trying to be convincing enough to make him lend a hand.
"No, but I could drop you off somewhere where someone could help you. Or do you know anyone that is close by?", the man said. Scratching his beard in question whether or not he should even give him a lift.
"I was on my way to a friend's house. It's not far from where I am at. Maybe you could drop me off there? I'm sure it's on the way from where you're going." Max struck the ball out of the park. Hoping that the answer was a winning hit in convincing the man to agree.
"Sure. How far is it from here?", said the man.
"From what I can tell, it is about 6 miles." Said Max.
"Not too bad, I can drive you up there really quick since it's on my way. I have to get to a business far out of state for a meeting. I'm meeting up with some german engineers from a structural engineering industry. Called AlivCorps. Been driving since this morning and haven't made it there yet. I would be happy to take you to your friend's house." He explained. He sounded like a busy man with whatever profession he had in common working with german engineers. But Max decided not to delve deep into question in his own mind, and took the offer.
"Okay, sounds like a plan", Max said. Wanting to express his joy so bad, but felt it might be weird for the guy. "By the way, what's your name?", Max asked.
"Name's Michael Burningham. And your name, I might add?", trying to sound questionable at this point, but unknowingly trying to be green-eyed about the whole situation.
"My name is Max. I live in Virginia. I reside East of here in town.", introducing himself to the circumspect businessman.
"Shall we go?", Michael had asked in anticipation.
"Yeah, I'm ready when you are.", Max said. Dumbass. You sound rhetorical.
As they both went into the car, they drove off. The drive was somewhat bitter, if not for the awkward silence between the two for 15 minutes. No conversational topic, nor discussion was made. When they reached at some point in the road, he cautioned Michael that the entrance would be on the right hand side of the trees. So, Michael slowed down and kept a look out. It was so dark, you could the mass bank of trees on either of the road as two large whole shadows against a starry night. What max saw inside the car was a empty Sonic drink it appeared, then Michael at the driver seat; wearing glasses and a button down shirt with khakis. The shirt was blue and plaid, with the collar unfixed, and his khakis look worn with a red stain on area of his inner thigh against the color beige. In the back seat there was no junk, no food, papers, or none of that junk. It was clean. Like he cleaned it out at a upholstery station at Curly's. Curly's was in Max's town that was cheap. You can get a car wash at the price of $20, and upholstery cleaning for $10.15. Unfortunately, for the business, they only get only five or seven customers going through the car wash. People barely use the vacuum for the car since they were clean idiots. Next to the car wash, was a related building that was car maintenance. They had a small upholstery station equipped with a vacuum and different vacuum nozzle types. Maybe Michael had gotten his vehicle maintained. The only possible conclusion anyway.
Max pointed at the upcoming entrance that banked right. Michael drove into the entrance and was succumbed to a narrow road with surrounding trees. The trees were so close, that they could almost scratch the exterior of the car with their tiny branches. Soon after, the road opened up to a large acre lot. A house sat flat center on a hill, refurbished with a modern look. Four glass pane windows sat on either side of the front door; which was also standing under large porch with hanging torch lights from each balcony post. There was lights on inside through the curtains, but not on the second floor. Looks like somebody hasn't gone to bed just yet.
Michael parked the car and waited for Max to get out. Saying it was nice to see another face around here. He reminded Max that he would "have to go crazy" if he didn't see another person out "in these parts". Max thought this was strange. Did this guy live under a rock from civilization? Max cut the thought off in his head, but not noticeably to give exposure that something was wrong. Max said his goodbyes, and Michael did the same. Then Max got out of the car. Michael pulled away and went into the dark sea of trees that narrowed a bended route. He took a slow walking stride to the front of the house, legs bending at the knee to climb the hill the house sat upon. He followed the walkway leading up to the front porch and got to the front door. The door was solid oak with wooden grains beautifully embedded. Finishing off the look of the door with a fancy doorknob that made with a fake gold finish. He knocked four times against the door. In a few moments, the door opened up with a woman still dressed in her Friday's best clothes. Casual denim jeans and a t-shirt that hailed a rock band called "System of A Down". Her long blond hair partly covering her eyes, until she combed it back with her hand to reveal her bright blue eyes. This was Linda. Max's best friend since high school. She grew up with Max when their families were befalling a serious tragedy with modern life problems. Linda's mother and father were alcoholic at the time; Max's parents were, on the other hand, smokers. A very different side of family. Max could remember the smell of cigarettes that his mother smoked: a brand called Virginia Slims. Go figure. Before that irony hit home, she started to speak.
"Heeeey, Max! It's nice to see you again! Haven't seen you in seven years since you graduated high school. What's up?", her voice rejoiced in harmony of joy and excitement as Linda started having high school nostalgia. Max started to say hi -- but hesitated. Then started explaining himself. "Thought maybe I could hang out with you for a while. I hope this isn't a bad time."
"No, no, not at all. Come in! I am so glad to see you. It's been a while. Tell me about how you're doing.", she said, closing the door behind them as Max walked inside. Then, Max was fishing for something in his back pocket. It was a baggie full of green feathery bulbs with a pipe inside. Yep, you guessed it. Weed. "Look at what I brought. I thought we could -- you know -- toke up.". Max was nervous at first, but he knew she knows about Marijuana. She didn't have any negative argument about the plant. She believed that it had good health attributes for those using. "Um, sure. Don't tell me you traveled all the way up here to get me to smoke weed.", She criticized his visit that he was wanting to get her to use Marijuana. "No, I thought we could use this to relax and have fun.", Max said.
"Alright, that sounds fine. But let's not smoke too much of it. I don't want my house smelling like stinky weed farts.", Linda had voiced in concern. Max set up the pipe and began to rip off the leaves from the Marijuana bulb. The stiff, dried up nuggets that crumbles easily, was torn to shreds by Max ripping each single consecutive piece a second time. He loaded up the pipe with the mash of greens and brought out his lighter from his other back pocket. Not a bic lighter, but an old school flip-top lighter. Show-off. The bowl lit up, turning the greens into a blackened fiery ember that contains the "secret" ingredient that makes anyone go hungry (and possibly fall asleep). He gave the pipe to Linda. After she lit up the pipe, they swapped pipe back and forth, taking turns. Getting really high.
Afterwards, Max set the pipe down and the lighter. Eyes glazed over and bloodshot, he tried asking her a few questions. "So how did you end up in this house? Did you have any savings?", Max asked.
"I saved most of my money from work. And then I had my parents shower me with gifts for being so hard at work and for trying to live a good dependable life on my own. I was beloved by them. Their gifts over the years was money, of course. But I didn't mind. That's how I got this house; I got it for a cheap price. After most of my other friends graduated high school, and made their lives independent. Common courtesy of their parents who gave them money for everything, if they were lucky that way. What about you, Max? How you've been?", she started off telling him.
"I have been traveling out of town. Seeing local attractions and such. I got an apartment in town where I am staying. Its been refurbished, but needs some little tidying up. I got a job at SunCorp, a book publishing company. We take in novels that need publishing and for writers to get credit. As far as my day goes, I had to get a lift to come here. My car ran out of gas on the way to your house. Which reminds me -- do you have a spare canister of fuel in your garage?", not much to say, but what can you do?
"Awesome. I do. It's on the second shelf next to the garage door. You're welcome to have the spare fuel. I always fuel up my car after going somewhere. I never use the spare fuel unless it was an emergency. I travel many miles far from home for quick getaways. This house is so boring. I also have a career path too set up for me. I'm an intern for Yuriel Inc. Mind you, I find my job less hectic than to find a writer who needs to publish a book.", Linda started to brag, as if she had gotten her life so well handed to her. But this didn't mind Max. He knew she was the type to boast about her lifestyle. Once the conversation ended short, he took one final hit from the pipe before announcing that it was "cashed", and headed for Linda's garage. He found the canister exactly where she said it would be. He took it in his hand and brought it inside. He wondered if his car was going to be okay. There is no one for miles. Only one person out of 100 would travel these roads but would never guess his car was abandoned in the middle of the road. He thought this over, before heading back inside to meet up with Linda in the living room. A room only filled with bookshelves preserved with old mythical stories and encyclopedias. In the center of the living room, sat a love-seat and two soft cushion chairs on either side of the love-seat. No TV. No radio. Does she ever get out much to overlook how the world was doing? It was well lit, as it set the mood for comfort. He put the canister on the laminated floor away from the living room, not knowing if it was appropriate to put it near any furniture in case it would leave gasoline residue. He sat down on the love-seat and Linda joined him on the chair. Half baked and already lazy to get up from their seats, they gave in to the THC running course through their systems. Max rubbed his eyes and Linda laid back in the chair, glad to be at ease. As soon as they finally relaxed, they heard a howl. Same one as before? No, this was a different howl. It sounded like someone...or something was in pain. It was more like a yell than a howl after Max processed the noise. Linda heard it too. "So i'm not the only one hearing shit.", he thought.
His heart racing again inside his chest, he stood up and listened. So did Linda, but she was more determined than worried. She went over to an old fireplace that was across from the love-seat and got down her grandfather's Winchester rifle. It didn't have any bullets, but she searched for some anyway, in case something goes down. Linda was a tough gal. She doesn't take shit from anyone. And if anyone ever indeed messed with her, they would be hearing about it the next day when she decides her vengeance. She looked in a drawer at an end table with a cottage style lamp sitting on top, and found ammunition in a box that held 16 rounds. She loaded the bullets into the barrel, and cocked the rifle back in it's place. Safety pin off. Max remembered going to a shooting range with Linda and her father. This woman had an itchy trigger finger! Never stopped shooting, until she decided that the target was beyond "dead". Linda's father, Jim, was proud to have his daughter on his side of the family, who knew how to properly fire a weapon. Max didn't do so well in shooting. His target practice barely had any hits on the targets themselves. Missing a bunch of times before finally getting one shot through a target.
Linda had her ears and eyes on high alert. Max trailed after her when she walked through the house and checked outside the windows. It was dark outside. The only place illuminated, was her side porch and front torch lights at the front, personalized as a half-completed luminescent moat around her house like a castle. Only the back-end of the house was not covered by light. As Linda went upstairs, Max followed her, too high to do anything and scared out of his wits of something that might happen. But then, noticeably, it was only paranoia that settled in his mind. Regretting the intake of smoke he took in from the bowl he just had. His weed was very strong. "Shwag" was the slang for what he carried. Linda went through the upstairs hallway to her bedroom. The second door at the end of the hall, next to another door that was the bathroom. She went her master bedroom and checked through her window. Scoping the land for suspicious activity. The howling got louder, and a lot closer. This time, the howling sounding more shrill. She opened up her window and stuck the rifle out past the window sill. Taking blind aim to whatever was in the distance in the dark night. She swear she could hear snarling. Cautiously looking left and right and putting her finger slowly on the trigger, she got herself ready to fire at whatever was invading her property. She dealt with coyotes before, but this call was more than an animal. It sounded human.
A silhouette on it's four legs came into view. Awkwardly bending its joints as if broken. Its head was pointed down to the ground so she could barely see any features. It crawled, jerking with spastic movements. Abnormally moving like a possessed being. She took aim at the creature. Then fired. Two times, hitting where the head was and its right side. Once shot, it went down on all fours. But then it got back up again. This time, it galloped towards the house. As if angry and wanting to end the feud sooner with getting its prey. "Shit! I don't know what the fuck that thing is, but we better barricade the front and back door NOW!", she closed the window shut and locked it. She hurried downstairs, Max stayed for a bit, watching the window, then he saw the monster in the light.
It looked distorted. Like a wrinkly face imposing as crinkly paper. There was no eyes. Its neck was thin, like a pvc pipe you find under sinks. How did know where we were? Did it sense us? Its body was large with broad shoulders and a fat waist. Its legs were thick and its feet were like huge stumps. And its hands were the paws of a gorilla. Max went down after Linda to follow her. Trying to quickly step down the stair. Almost tripping on his feet. Linda had the idea to barricade the front door first. She didn't know why she wanted to block the door. But she did have an inkling about the creature. "Help me with the love-seat!", she exclaimed. They team lifted the love-seat and with the best of their strengths combined, moved it over the front door. Once it was finally in position, they pushed it against the door. When put in place, it only took a few seconds later to hear a BANG against the door. "Jesus Christ. Linda, quick! What do we do now?" "Quick, now the back!"
They used one of the chairs as the barricade against the back door, which stood in the kitchen. The back door had tiny six pane windows built in, giving view of the many acres of her own backyard. The creature didn't come around back, and were relieved to find out that it didn't come around the house. Now the realization settled in that they were trapped in the home. Linda guarded with only her rifle that her grandfather gave her. Max took a kitchen knife out of the knife block that Linda had in her kitchen. He took it out so fast he wasn't careful, so the metal blade scraped against the wood as it left its slot. Making a metal scraping sound as it went. Max didn't know what to think of the situation that risen. He was scared. Linda, knowing her, was not afraid, but was pretty damn pissed off that something was invading her property. She looked at Max and said nothing. She looked away to avoid confrontation as she needed to focus on what to do next. She had one round left before starting another set in her rifle. The phone next to refrigerator was next on her list. She picked up the phone and dialed 911. She got through to an operator, but then the phone died suddenly and the line disconnected. Giving a click in her ear, before she returned the phone to the receiver. This was not going well. The only thing she has now is her rifle and Max. But knowing Max, he can't defend himself that much. Even in high school when she was with him, his stance against other teenagers, including the bullies, was wimpy and weakly submissive. She could hear the the creature snarling at the front door, before going away a few moments after. But before those few moments, she could swear she heard galloping hooves thumping the ground. It sounded heavy, like a fat elephant pretending to be like a running horse.
"Dammit! The phone line just disconnected! I can't deal with this shit now. We shouldn't have smoked that bowl. I can't focus, nor can I think. How are you feeling, Max?", She now sounded worried. Something that Max didn't see in her, until now. Max was shaking with chills that ran up and down his body. He wondered if the creature was a spawn of some abnormal, rabid dog. "I am feeling alright, but I am shaking up a bit. How many bullets do you have left over?", Max said and questioned her source of security.
"I used up one shot, so 15 rounds left of ammunition. I got plenty more in my closet where I keep them in a makeshift shoe box. What are we going to do? This thing got up like it was okay, and the bullet only pushed it back.", Linda said.
Max saw what happened through the window. He didn't want to admit it. "Maybe we should barricade the windows if this thing decides to strike through one. Linda, that thing is not an animal. And I think we need a bigger gun than a rifle. I saw the thing after you went down the stairs. I saw it in the light...it had no face, its head is crinkled up like a burlap bag. It had large feet, which would explain the thumps we heard.", Max sounded like a person giving a profile of some criminal. He wouldn't have explained it any other way. His mind was stuck on the monster like a picture he can't throw away. It horrified him. This thing was abominable to God's eyes and by damnation, it would suffer a horrible experience in Hell! Oh god, how could it stay alive? Max was worried and thought about its hands. He wondered what it does with its hands. There was was no way we experienced that together at the same time. "It should've been an illusion", Max thought, blaming the weed. His vision now blurry and the weed making his head dizzy. It made him think the world was spinning out of control. More truthfully, he felt sick. He turned to Linda and gave a dismayed look. A sign of distress was in order for Max. He then asked, "Is your father or mother coming home any chance? Better tell them to stay away from place or face an uncertain fate."
"My family is in Wisconsin on holiday. They told me they'd be back in four weeks. My father is in charge of his company on his vacation along with mother, whom you know is his secretary. Max, what the fuck is that thing?"
"I already told you what it looked like! It was gross to look at and it was like something out of a horror movie. Our best chance of getting any help are slim if we are trapped in this house. Do you have a cellular phone?", Max said. He was getting tempted to remove the love-seat and step out the door and bolt his way down the pathway. He was on edge. Linda reached into her pocket and pulled out a Samsung. One of the better quality phones Linda humbly noted to herself. When she opened up her phone, there was three bars left for a good signal. She slid her finger across the touchscreen to get to the phone app. From there, she used a key pad to call 911. The phone gave two or three rings before she got to an operator on the phone. She pressed five to speak to an officer or representative.
"Hello? Hi, I have a very sick person walking around my house. He looks to be very dangerous and I can't seem to get out of my house without him waiting outside. I locked the front and back door and windows are shut tight. I was wondering if there is something else I can do before an officer can get here? Uh-huh, uh-huh, I see. Yes, I have something to arm myself. Okay. Yes, I live on a private residence. The address is Velmont Road, zip code is 24407. Hm-mm. Alright! Thank you so much. Bye". Linda didn't like lying, and this is the second time she lied. But it was better to exaggerate the details a little bit if you want to get help from the police. Max was waiting on confirmation that an officer would be here. So Linda turned around to look at Max. "An officer would be here in 45 minutes to an hour. Which is a long wait time, but I think it might go away if we don't bother it or have it acknowledge us." Max was in disbelief with how long they have to wait for a squad car to come by. He almost felt like someone hit him in the gut. The police in the state of Virginia have to put up a drive through the forest of an lonely abyss of trees for miles until there is an urban population. Max stood against the wall and covered his face with his hands. The clock hanging in the kitchen was heard ticking in the moment of silence. It was too quiet...
*clatter clack clock clatter clatter clatter* went the roof. As if someone was scurrying on top. It sounded small and skittish like an animal freaking out. Max and Linda one last sound that sounded like a large scratch. The thing jumped off the edge of the roof. Linda and Max looked at each other and stood there, frozen. A tap on the kitchen window was heard. *tap tap tap* Linda raised her rifle and headed into the kitchen. The kitchen window sat above the kitchen sink. The curtains were pulled back and one could see into the backyard. There was no one at the window. Linda peering her head left and right against it, she saw no one standing out of view from the sides. Linda pulled herself back away from window, and Max, who at this point was following her, asked her if there was someone out there. Linda looked confused as she said nothing. She looked back at the window and then back to Max and had said, 'There's no one there, I could swear though, I heard tapping on the glass". A chaotic fury of panic had set in when something smacked against the window. Max yelped as it startled him. Linda taking careful precaution, pointed her rifle at the glass. She stepped slowly towards it as it seemed like nobody was there. Bullshit, there isn't. A hand crept slowly up the glass pane, making it's fingers crawl like a spider with thick legs. It stopped and stayed there. Then it slid down to the bottom and disappeared. A crinkled up "face" slowly appeared from the side edge of the pane. As if it was looking in. Linda took aim and fired. She didn't care about the window breaking. She had saved some money left over to do repairs on the house anyway. The bullet went through its ugly head and knocked it backwards, causing the creature to fall over. Linda knew it was going to get up again because of how it had somewhat of an immunity to bullets. She took Max's arm and had him follow her up the stairs. She hurried over each step as if her life depended on it. She took him to the bedroom where it was her only safe haven in the house. Max wondered what she planned to do. She was a smart woman capable of doing things no one else could. Like shooting a gun or creating a protective shelter against enemies or dangerous animals. Linda closed her bedroom door and locked it. Locking it is pointless, this thing was huge. She paced around the room.
"I don't care what it looks like, it is not getting in this house to attack us. Max I need you to be on your best guard. And kitchen knives are not a best suitable weapon, Max. We need something a lot larger, like you said. But I don't know what that would be unless we had a shotgun."
Max recalled something he remembered he had learned. It was on how to make explosives. "We could make a Molotov cocktail. Put some alcohol in a bottle and tuck a rag or cloth in the opening, and light it on fire and throw it at the ugly motherfucker. That way, that abomination burns and we could end this."
"Sounds like a good idea, but I don't have any alcohol to make one or have empty bottles. Perhaps we could distract it with a noisemaker and lead it away from the house. This sounds like it could hear us. Having it see us is a different situation", Linda's solution was practical, but it meant that both of them would have a chance to make peace with this dweller of dark shadows. If there is a chance this will work. Linda rummaged through her closet for various items. She only found hangers and clothing accessories like scarfs, belts, and hats. Max tried everything in her room to make a weapon that was suitable enough to save them time if anything goes wrong. So far, he had no luck finding anything useful in her room. Once they regrouped, they didn't have any other idea what to do, but consider a noisemaker as their only option. Linda had pop rocks in her nightstand drawer as memorabilia last July. Linda remembered and checked her drawer. She opened it, and dug through the clutter of things she hadn't used in a while (or will use anytime soon). Linda took the pop rocks and went towards her window to slide it open. She took one piece of the pop rocks and threw it against her roof, making a crackling sound. She did this multiple times before she saw a familiar shadow mass enter her sights. It galloped and bounced like a horse, flopping its head around as if its neck was broken. It went underneath out of view where her window was. Max was giving the heads up and told him to go downstairs and wait for her. Linda threw more pop rocks until she had emptied the box, and stuck her head back inside her room and shut the window. She went downstairs after Max and found him in the living room.
"Okay, it's distracted at the back of the house. We need to get to my car and open the garage door. The garage door will make noise, but that's okay because we would be out of here quick. I just need to find my car keys.", Linda revised this plan to Max, hoping he'll agree to go with it. Max nodded and went into the garage and waited for her. Once she had found her keys, she went into the garage with Max, and unlocked the car. They both got in and she buckled up. Before she started the car, she psyched herself up to click the garage door opener in her car and start the engine. She readied herself and told Max to embrace himself. She clicked the garage door opener and turned the ignition key as soon as she did. She floored the gas pedal and made it halfway out of the garage, only to see a smaller creature running towards her car. It was 25 yards away before she made it out of the garage. As she drove and tried to avoid hitting the smaller accomplice that was brought with the horse looking abomination, she had seen the thing charging at her car from her driver side.
It was an ambush. They closed in on the car and Linda, panicking, hit the pedal to the metal. She successfully steered out of the way of the smaller and more lanky creature and drove past the galloping burlap faced horse from her side. They made it. They went through the narrow pathway in the woods and drove through. Almost making it to the opening of the entrance that leads to the main road, this small creature that was a "mini-me" version of the four-legged burlap "horse" was on top of the car. It punctured the roof, putting its mini gorilla hand through the slit opening. It grabbed Linda's hair. Making her scream as she took her hands off the steering wheel to fight back, trying to keep her hair on her head. Max took the kitchen knife and cut off her hair being grabbed by the atrocious being. It had a handful of her hair and took its hand out of the ceiling. When she wasn't watching the road, she crashed into a tree after being assaulted. Max could only watch in horror as the "horse" coming up on the driver side of the car and punched through the window. It grabbed Linda out by the neck. Linda was croaking as she was gasping for air, trying to scream as loud as she could, but the grip from its hand was so tight, it showed its bare white knuckles. It used its other free hand and grabbed her jaw. It released its grip on her throat and adjusted its hands on both her upper and lower jaw. She screamed in horror, but was stopped short when it began to rip her head off. It took half of her head and threw it in the woods. Max screamed. He got out of the car and ran back to the house while it was ripping up most of Linda's limp body, starting from the neck and all the way down. Max was screaming like a maniac and kept screaming, running for the house. Max was in a moment of hysteria. The smaller "mini-me" had a mouth, so it began to eat her limbs. Gnawing at her flesh like a hungry piranha. Max ran as fast as he could. The two monsters were busy eating her body, they didn't notice Max running away. Max swung open the front door and slammed it closed behind him. A slam was heard behind the door. Not knowing if they open doors, he didn't want to take that risk, so he barricaded the door once more with the love-seat. He was panting heavily. He couldn't believe what he had just seen. He immediately felt like shit and felt so much shock, he couldn't process his reaction to what he had just seen. There was no time for grieving since his life depended on time...which he didn't have left. He knew the rifle was left in the car. He couldn't go back because of those meddling creatures. Pussy... He went up to her room and locked himself inside. He barricaded the window and barricaded the door. After that, he had a long night in front of him. He could still hear the creatures rummaging outside, trying to get in. One was on the roof scratching at the shingles, and the other was slamming its whole body against the front door. He was wide awake throughout the rest of night. Noises starting up and dying down, making him paranoid that they entered the house. He waited until sunrise until the creatures departed.
Chapter 2: Forsaken
The alarm clock was going off. Max woke up on the floor next to Linda's bed. Which she will never see again because she was dead. The room felt as though she was alive with things presented with liveliness as she had left it, presently. He peeked through barricade against the window and saw sunlight through trees. The sun from his point of view was hanging above the tip of the trees. He stepped back and approached the bedroom door. He removed the barricade and opened the door. He headed downstairs into the foyer entrance that sat across the front door and near the living room. He peeked through the peephole and saw nothing amiss. He opened the door and stepped outside. Nothing charged at him. Nothing grabbed him and ripped him apart. Upon noticing the ground before him, he saw that the grass was dead. Every acre of her property had dead grass as if mysteriously poisoned. He walked and saw one of Linda's limbs scattered across the ground near the lining of the trees. Flies already accommodated the now decomposing flesh. A half eaten arm and leg showing bare bone, her head was nowhere to be found. The rest of her body disappeared; or was probably hidden. He went through the entrance and exit of the woods on the dirt road. He trudged through the woods until he got to opening entrance to the road. From there, he raised his thumb to flag down a car. He was out there for an hour until a car finally came by. It was a red 2015 Mustang. Looking as if it was brand new for the first time of its kind. It pulled up to Max and a man was seen in the car. He had a beard to die for, and bright blue eyes; hair was short and black with sideburns neatly trimmed. He was wearing a casual shirt with mesh shorts. Inside the car was expensive leather seats with the front steering wheel being made out of alligator skin. In the backseat, was a set of formal clothes strewn about. A button top, khakis, and black socks layered the backseat of the Mustang. Max got in the car and asked him if he was around here.
"Yeah, I'm heading South to Bluefield. Is there any particular place you wanted to go?", said the stranger.
"Yes, I was wondering if you could take me to Charleston? It's a long drive, but I would be so happy if you could take me there. I have some issues to get through at the police department.", Max tried shortening his explanation as best as possible. He was in too much shock to give grotesque details about what happened with his friend, or tell him about the congenitally malformed beings. His only bet was to lead the police straight to the house and show them what tragedy had occurred while he was there. He doubt they would ever find her body. The small monster could've taken the limbs and the torso before Max has even a chance to tell the police there had been a death. "What happened? Did you deal with a bunch of assholes or something?", said the stranger, looking in the side and rear view mirrors as he drove. Max thought about lying like Linda did on the phone to the police last night, but then he thought, "if they do find Linda's body, they'll pin it on me and I'll end up in jail for life".
"Me and my friend just had a crazy naked person with a tree branch walk outside of her house last night. We called the cops but no one showed up. The guy ended up leaving the property this morning back into the woods. We found the tree branch on the porch.", Max summarized the lie.
"Wow, sounds like you had a rough night. Where is she now? Is this the entrance?"
"Yeah it is, but I'm leaving because I slept over at her because I didn't have enough gas for my car, so I left it abandoned on the main road, which you probably saw when you were driving."
"No kidding. It's a good lookin' car. How about I take you to Bluefield and then we could go to the police and you could state your case there first. I might have a buddy of mine to drop you off to Charleston, since that is a long drive and I have work to get to. His name is Yuri Hammel and he lives not far from where I am headed.", Max took this as a sign. Maybe the body will go unnoticed. Or maybe they wouldn't find any evidence at all.
Max asked for his name. "Mike", said the fellow. Max said his name after. It took an hour to get to Bluefield. When entering the town, he noticed that shops were in a idyllic setting, looking clean and justified. He marveled at a statue in the center of the town. It was a bronze statue of a man on a large horse holding with one hand, a american flag, and holding in the other, a gun that looks like a rifle. Mike drove around the roundabout that encircled the statue and went to the first left of the road intersection. He dropped him off at the police headquarters first before anywhere else to make a report of a "malicious naked man on the loose". Max told them the address and hoped to god they didn't find anything when he goes back to town. Max was dreading jail. He never liked cops either. One time, when one of his friends got arrested for smoking cocaine, two stories emerged where the officer had been accused of beating his friend for "resisting arrest", the other story was told that he spat in the officer's face. Never, was Max going to deal with another constable, ever again. A few minutes later, he drops Max off at his supposed workplace. At the expense of the building, it looked small and too bulky for its size. Beige gray-stone bricks line the wall with the rest being plastered cement, looking like an expensive, ugly studio apartment. Mike tells Max that he should wait there a few moments until his buddy comes around the corner. "I thought your friend lives away from the city.", Max comes around with suspicion. "No, I called him while I was inside my work building. His name is Julian. He agree'd to drop you off at Charleston. He's gonna be in a blue Ford pick-up truck..." Just as Mike was explaining to Max about his friend, his words had been cut off by the sight of his friend, Julian, coming from another street. As the truck pulled up, Max introduced himself and so did Julian. Max discussed with him about what happened and told him he was ready to go home. Julian nodded and asked no further questions. Julian started the engine and cranked the truck into Drive. Off they went.
Halfway driving on the road, Max was looking out the window into the thicket of trees. Smaller trees lining up in front of the larger set of trees; as if someone planted them as a growth project for the forestry preserve. It was nearing dark and both Max and Julian only had a little bit of sunlight left to see the road before switching on the headlights. Julian started having a conversation with Max. "So, Max. What do you do for fun?", he started out saying. "Well, I like to go out for a drink with some buddies, have myself a nice getaway at the malt shoppe where I have chocolate fountain drinks, and I like to go hiking in the trails we have here in West Virginia. We have a very good bar and bartender. He makes anything on the house without zero difficulty. Not only that, but the bar is friendly. The malt shoppe is exquisite and a very comfortable place to drain all your worries. You wouldn't need alcohol with this place because of how tasty their drinks are. One thing I might need to add extra, is that the trails contain large and dangerous animals. Like bobcats, wolves, coyotes, wild hogs, and bears. Our town is usually a "small world" too; I bump into the same people multiple times a day since our town is not so large. What about you, Julian? Got any interests in hobbies?"
"I like to go fishing with my dad. We spend time at the lake to catch fish all day. Then, when I'm on my own, I go to my town and try to buy the next line of newspapers to track the seasonal playoffs of my football team: The Richmond Raiders. They always have a good league against the Virginia Cyclones. I also like looking into shops and to see various things I want to buy, but never having enough money to go and purchase it. I would go window browsing for things I can imagine having; a nice fancy wallet; clothes It calms my mind. Letting yourself loose and to wander around town to explore, gives you a good chance of growing with town's setting, you know? Become familiar with it and you'd be at peace and welcomed.", Julian was getting carried away with the conversation and his voice was becoming indistinct in Max's ears. He zoned out looking at the passing trees, thinking about what happened yesterday. He still can't believe that happened. He missed her, but there was no use grieving now. Max still wondered where the two disgusting, malevolent abominations went off to. He was amazed to realize that they probably weren't found in these woods because people barely navigate through them. And Linda's house was in the middle of nowhere. Who knows where they could be next? Max snapped out of his own world and came back to reality. He came out of his thoughts and daydream, only to hear Julian finish up saying "...what do you think?". Max had no idea how to respond so he confessed that he zoned out while he was talking. "That's alright. I do that all the time. It helps me consult myself and to organize my thoughts to plan out my day a bit better. Sometimes if you get too carried away, you lose all sense of reality. By the way, we're almost there.".
When it was finally night around 8:00 pm, Max saw the overhead sky lights of large buildings, with rooms and offices sparsely lit in different areas where people might be having a night shift, or to stay up late. The woods ended with the trees fading out and more of the grassy plain gradually came into view. They separated the woods from the city because of local wildlife being witnessed all around town. A plan was made to cut down all the trees to relocate and move the animals' habitat further away. As they drove into town, Max told him where he lived to drop him off. After navigating roads, taking a few turns, and catching every red light at an intersection, they got to his apartment. Max said goodbye and so did Julian. He closed the car door behind him and Julian drove off. His apartment was his haven; his safe place. No one really bothers him in the building, nor does anyone use the pager outside the building to call for Max. Max knowing this, he acknowledges the fact that he has no visitors. His family wasn't in Virginia and were locally living in different states. His father was in Tennessee and his mother was in South Dakota. Both his parents never write to him as they didn't know he was even alive. They were senile and nearing their time of passing. He tries to visit them, but neither one of them remembered his name or knew who he was. Barely recognized. He stepped up towards the door and went inside the complex. When he got inside, he was in a foyer connected to a long corridor, he walked down the hallway and turned left at the intersecting hallway, different than the last. He found the stair banister and went up. He was on the third floor, so he took a good while to climb. He got out his keys from his back pocket and put the key into the lock. He turned the key until he heard a click and opened the door to his messy apartment floor. He swears to himself that he was organized, and decided to lay off cleaning up the mess until morning. He went into the master bedroom and laid down on the bed. Lifting his legs up and using his feet to kick off his shoes. His sweaty socks were hit with the rush of cool air, making his feet slowly feeling like ice. One shoe hit the wall and bounced, and the other shoe landed on the front his dresser, leaning upright. His room was a mellow green color affixed with a ceiling fan that was on, on low speed. Max went up to the ceiling fan and cranked the fan to high. Creating a circulatory wave of wind around the room. He sighed and was relieved to be hit with a cool breeze. He laid his head back against the pillow and began to replay the events in his head from today to yesterday. He wondered if he was really dreaming, only to be disappointed and sad that he was awake the entire time. He missed Linda. He began to cry silently in his room. He grabbed a pillow that was next to him and shoved his face into it. He screamed. And then began wailing as if the worst thing had happened in the world. Only the irony was, was that he lost his friend. He was close to Linda and was almost close to making her his girlfriend back then. He thought that he was coming on too fast when he met her. So he pushed himself back to give her space and decided to stay as just friends. His shock never left his system, as he was replaying the last final moment when the monster had hooked his hands onto her jaw and began to pull apart. It was like watching a horror movie up close, but disturbingly, he was the "star of the show". When he stopped crying, he felt as though it tired him out with that one last effort of energy. He slowly began to fall asleep; closing his eyes and drifting off to sleep.
His phone in the living room began to ring. It was morning and the sunlight broke through into the windows, illuminating different areas inside his apartment. Max sat up and waited to see if it really was the phone. It ringed again. That's when Max stood up and walked over to the phone and picked it up. "Hello?", he said. "Hello, this is the Bluefield police department. We carried out your report on your encounter with a mentally challenged man who lurked around your friend's house. We sent a squad car to the address: Velmont Road, correct?"
"Correct." confirming the address. "We tried to find your friend, Linda Young, but she wasn't in the house. The whole lot was vacant. We found a smashed up Jeep that she owned near the driveway. Do you have any answers to why everything was set up that way?"
"Yes, we heard a noise outside the house that sounded like smashing and glass breaking. We didn't go outside because we didn't want to confront this man. We didn't know if he was dangerous or what. And I believe Linda carpooled with a co-worker that she works with at her job. We soon found out that the Jeep was smashed to bits, so I went in my car and drove off while she headed to work.", this lie wasn't gonna work, they'll soon find out.
"And was your car damaged at all during the time when the Jeep was vandalized?"
"No. My car was fine. He must've gone after one of the vehicles. My car was parked in the driveway and had it locked.", The operator trying to zero down on the issue, was beginning to feel suspicious on the other end of the line. Max sensed it. They would figure it out and think that he did it. He wasn't going to jail anytime soon, he thought. "Hmm. And what time did this vandalism occur?"
"Around 7:30 pm. We were trying to have dinner, but then the incident and sound occured outside the house. After that, we heard banging on the front door and a face peering in the front windows. He looked to be old with grey-ish white hair, a slender build, and no clothes of any kind. He ran off into the woods at around midnight. We didn't have a squad car arrive at the property after hours before ending the call.", he sounded like he was bargaining the truth to the operator to be a deal breaker. A commencement that he was wanting to achieve, with a set of lies AND truth half-mixed.
"Okay, and did this man carry any weapon or sort?", said the operator.
"No ma'am, he did not. I didn't see anything in his hands when I witnessed him outside the windows.", said Max. The lie was wearing thin. But before it could get any worse, the operator was silent on the other line. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Maxwell Keaton. We will notify you with anything we find. Have a good night, sir.". The operator ended the call and gave Max ease. He calmed down and his heart stopped fluttering as if he was having a panic attack.
"You as well. Good night ma'am.", Max took a deep breath and exhaled strongly as he ended the call. He was relieved to end the negotiation between him and the officer. He put the phone back onto the receiver and went to the fridge to get something to eat. He was hungry. He didn't find anything good in the fridge to savor, so he decided to have a bowl of cereal. He fixed himself some Wheaties to eat, and sat down at his breakfast table. It took him 10 minutes to finish his small bowl of cereal before heading out. He put his bowl in the sink. I'm not that messy. He got his keys and wallet, but no phone. He didn't own a phone. He didn't accept getting calls from people anyway. His family could be an exception, but considering how old they are, they wouldn't know how to operate a phone or even a flip phone. He locked the door behind him on the way out and proceeded downstairs of the apartment level floor. The stairs went down in a V shape spiral; stair steps were made of cement and had stains from people in the past, leaving food and substances on the steps. Making the stairs look dirty and old. The railing was cast iron with bits of rust cascading down the railing's legs. He made it to the first floor, and went out the door onto the street.
He walked East down the street and went his usual route to the malt shoppe. He made it far as six blocks until he reached a 1950's styled restaurant. The architecture was modern and sleek. With the entire facing being all glass with a pink neon sign reading: The Malt Halt. He swung open the glass door and walked up to the bar area. Behind the clerk that Max had known since he moved here, was a shelf lined up with upside down metal canisters with a nozzle of that of a whip cream container. This was ice cream that was dispensed into a tall fountain glass, which was stored underneath the clerk's counter. There was small cup bowls, sundae dishes, pastel colored cone shaped glasses with flat bottoms, and of course, fountain glasses. Each canister was assorted flavors. Max could choose between vanilla, chocolate, pecan, strawberry, cookie dough, dark chocolate, and butterscotch. This is was not all the flavors the clerk had, he had many more and customers would always come in with a custom order. The clerk's name was Mr. Samuel's White. He was bald, happy, pleased with modern life, and had let go at age 50; showing a pouch for a belly. He aged graciously over the years after having no problem with irate customers or whiny kids. No one ever complained about his ice cream.
Max ordered a vanilla malt with a swirl of butterscotch; his favorite malt. He sat there and contemplated in wonder of the featureless savage beasts that he had to fend off. He wondered where they came from and why were they after Linda's house. Or did they happen to find the house by accident and decided that their prey was whoever left the house? Max had so many questions, he was overwhelmed. Not wanting to show his distress, he had pretended he enjoyed the malt and sat there quietly until it was time to go. Two customers came in; a pair of teenagers. They ordered their malts and sat at a booth in a corner of the restaurant, facing the front window pane. He felt his memories swim back to him of the days of high school and how he had spent time with Linda.
He used to hang out with her during high school on weekends for a social gathering and play arcade games back then when they were at least 16 years old. He remembered when he stood up for her when she was in trouble with a bunch girls or a bunch of boys. Either or, he still stood up for her. Defending her from the disgruntled teens with backlash and weakened attempts to fight back. His weakness, he knew, was key to getting the teenagers off of Linda's back, since they were attracted to defenselessness and fear. He had no self-assurance when it came to confrontation. So he boiled the waters and waited for splash back, as the expression went. Giving the excuse that he was taking it like a man. The only reason why he gave her his "all", was because he liked her, But never did he pushed the boundary of being more than just friends.
As he finished his malt, he got up and layed down five dollars to pay for the malt, and a few singles as a tip. He left Malt Halt and went across the street to a grocery store to get a few items. Milk, eggs, bacon, beer, and lip balm. Lips are drying up. He browsed through the store and grabbed the few items he was wanting to get. When he got rung up for the groceries (or what you could call groceries), he got carded and had to present his driver's license. He passed the card check and got his things and exited the store. He came back to the apartment complex to drop off his essentials and food into his single room apartment. He put the eggs, the milk, and bacon in the fridge so they stay cold.
He cracked open a cold beer and sat down in his easy chair. He turned on the tv and flicked through all the channels, only to find nothing good on television. He sat there with his beer, still cold to the touch, and thought for a while. Giving himself a moment of silence and a consultation with his thoughts. He still thought about the creatures and how they looked. It was a searing image of gross proportions. Making H.P. Lovecraft jealous and topping over every other monster and myth ever created with their revolting anatomy. How do they even eat? How can they stay alive like that? How did they know how to see? These questions were spinning around his head, provoking his wits with confusion and the subtlety of nausea. Butterflies occurred in his stomach, even when drunk, he could still envision the monsters feasting his poor friend, Linda. He finished his single can of beer and went for another. He wanted to drown his sorrow and deepest regrets. His regrets? Sitting by and watching the whole moment go down without doing anything to stop them killing his friend. He felt guilty as he blamed himself for her death. He didn't know what to do, he argued with himself. I was frozen in fear, what was I supposed to do? Then he shamed himself for not picking up the rifle and shooting at the devilish hell-beasts. As soon as he was done with the last can of beer. He sat back down on his easy chair and passed out throughout the rest of the night.
Chapter 3: What Darkness Brings
(Soon to be added)