September 06, 2017

Something stirs in the shadows

Committed, you head onwards, deeper into the hunting grounds. Sound is lost in the dull mist which hangs heavily as it surrounds you. Each step brings you toward the crooked forms of gnarled trees, almost human in their silhouette. Beyond them lurk behemoths—barns, and houses—ready to take you whole. Another step, and what you took for a twisted stump lurches and chokes. It belches flies through a cavity in its throat. As it stumbles back into the mist, they buzz in the air. You promise yourself: when it's gone, you'll move again. The silence is punctured by a distant bark. A gun shot. A splash. The realization sets in: there's no way to be sure that it has gone. You move on.

A gate creaks ahead; furtive whispering reaches you. You dash, the behemoth become house. You crouch down at the fence, watching it. A wash of light crosses a window. You wait for it to recede, then vault the fence, crossing the yard in one, two, three strides. You come to a crouch under the window.

Foot steps. You turn. The belching grunt is beyond the fence, sniffing at the air, trailing an unsteady stream of flies. One remaining lidless eye finds you. A shot deafens. Glass rains. The grunt staggers back, and then buckles as a second shot ruptures its jaw. Shards from the shattered window fall at your feet. You hear someone take a step back from the window and spit. There's a click. A chamber is opened. You rise and turn and open fire into the black depths of the charnel house.

You pass through the house, once built for comfort. You're wary of the doors, now vicious chokepoints. Furniture crowds dark corners, a silhouette in the corner of your eye. The front door is barricaded from the inside, you take it apart piece by piece. It swings open, revealing more lurking, cavernous dwellings. Towards the road, a beast with many limbs churns. It's a pack of grunts, feasting on a horse. You turn away from them, dropping lightly from the porch.

You pass the barn, once built for labor. You watch the upper windows for movement; now they could conceal snipers nests. Something stirs within the building, causing it as if to shudder. You shy away, joining the shadows under a great oak. This place was built for work; now it harbors terror. Its original purpose lost, it might as well built to witness violence and proliferate death.

Above you, something swings. You step back, and look amongst the branches. Dangling is a foot, one among many, many pale appendages on bodies strung from the branches. Once comfortable, once laboring, the builders swing.