Saturday, November 12, 2016

An Abstruse Monster - final chapter

Lucy shivered. Not out of being cold, although she was intensely cold. Not out of fear although she was she terrified beyond the level of sanity. No, this was a shiver of certainty. Certainty that the creature had sensed her presence; certainty that the creature was at the other end of the boulder waiting to decapitate her every limb; certainty that she would soon become the next stone to inhabit the damp cave floor. She waited, but nothing came. There were no sounds, no cracks, no howls. Hesitating, she lifted her head above the stone and peered back towards the cave entrance. It had gone.

Lucy fumbled her way back to the entrance of the cave. It somehow seemed brighter than before. The moon light shown down the valley, beaming on to the back of the enormous beast that was thudding its way across the valley floor. Michael's face was clear under the star lit sky. His blood trickled down his face and dripped leaving a dotted breadcrumb. He did not flinched.  His sack-like body was tossed effortless.He lay limp, bleeding, with gashes on his arms and his legs. Camouflaged in his own blood his face periodically vanished in the gloomy night sky.

‘Is he dead’ thought Lucy,' He looked dead'.

She watches as the fiend bounded down the valley dragging it’s long arms behind him, claws ripping through the earth.

Lucy took chase. The hunter had become hunted and the hunted, the hunter. The irony of the situation did not escape Lucy. If the beast had its way she would be tomorrow’s dinner, but if she was to save Michael, the beast would need to be hunted like vermin, killed like vermin.

She scrambled down the valley. She did not waste time dragging herself down on her hands and knees. She threw herself down the face of the hill. Often she would lose her balance and tumble, rolling over her feet, battering against the rocks. Her already battered and bruised body felt no further pain so she would just regain her composure get back to her feet and push on down the hillside in pursuit of her target. When the descent gave way to flatter terrain she monitored the beast from a distance, slipping behind the nearest tree when it turned back on her. It stopped often. It would tune it sharp blue eyes like lasers back through the forest suspicious of her presence. When it found nothing it returned to its bounding descent across the valley. Lucy, for once, felt she was in control. She wasn't scared. Her adrenalin pumped body injected her with enthusiasm. Deceived by her body she began thinking of this as a game, but this was not game. This was life and death in truest, brutalist definition of the term.

The creature did not tire. It ploughed through the bushes in determined fashion. It had clear intent. It had a goal in mind. Lucy darted from tree to tree, but she was tiring. With each forced stride the beast beast gathered pace.  She was losing the chase. She could not continue at this pace. Her muscles were seizing. They felt like large lumps of congealed fat. They were numb and lifeless. Her pace slowed but the creatures did not. Mentally she tried to go faster. Her mind had raced at the speed of a lion but her legs had gone. She stumbled and for the last time she fell, her face ground into the mud. Her battered and bruised body was lifeless. She had lost. It was gone.

As she lay the taste of salt, blood and earth had mingled and coated her mouth and throat. She could barely breathe. The trees whistled in the light wind. She lay dejected, her senses were re-awakened. Her body started to ache. The cuts and bruises soared back into life stinging and burning. The vile tang lingered in her mouth. She could hear the faintest of sounds, the wind, the trees. She could smell but it was different. It was unexpected. It was pungent. Like a smokey coal fire. She dragged herself up into a sitting position and peered through the darkness and there in the distance, right enough, was smoke. It bellowed from the chimney of an old stone cottage. The puffs of smoke swirled upwards and dissipatedwith breeze, evaporating above the forest canopy. Deep in the shadows she briefly glanced the outline of the beast and then it had gone, slipping through the strong oak door of the cottage. It had not escaped. She took a few moments to regain control. She concentrated on her breathing. She massaged life back into her muscles and when she had readied herself she began plotting her attack.

The chimney continued to fume. The windows were lit red from the chimney fire, broken periodically by the outline of the fiend wandering back and forth. Screams filtered through the cottage walls. Lucy searched the surrounding land for inspiration. At the side of the cottage was a small crumbling timber hut. Keeping clear of the window lit foreground, she crept through growth. The hut was not locked. A loose rusty bolt held the door closed. Lucy pulled the bolt and with a light creak the door was open. The hut was fairly sparse dusted lightly with hay. Loose strands were blown inwards when she opened the door. Deep in a murky corner she noticed the outline of drum. It was laced with dust and the lid was rusted tight. She searched for leverage. A tool rid shelve was at her side. She rustled through its contents eventually laying her hands on an old battered screw driver. She pushed the screwdriver under the lid and forced it downwards. The screwdriver popped upwards and sliced through her hand. The blood coated the handle. She forced the screw driver in further but again it popped clean out missing her hand and dropping to the floor with a clank. She turned back towards the door expecting the monster to be standing over her but nothing was there, just the moon framed in the doorway. She turned back, lifted the screwdriver from the floor, forced it under the lid and with a thump she levered the handle down. The lid popped free and the screwdriver returned to the floor with a clang. She pushed her nose up to the liquid in the drum sniffed and recoiled as the petrol burned her nostrils. She lifted the container, the liquid dripping over her clothes. Her muscles did not permit her to carry it far and by the time she had made her way to the other side of the hut door she had resigned herself to dragging the drum across the ground, through the bush, scoring the earth along the way. With the last of her bodies energy she lifted the drum and sprayed its contents on to the agonising walls of the cottage.

The walls of the cottage howled. Deep long howls. The outline of the beast could be seen at a window, its back arched and its mouth pouted out. A long deep howl.

Lucy tucked herself under the window ledge and listened. Howls were intermingled with moaning, quiet infrequent moaning. She dragged together some dead leaves and in school boy fashion she grated two twigs together. She rubbed and rubbed but it would not light. She kept rubbing until her hands started to blister, until her blisters had blisters, and then in an instant she had a spark. A small spark. A leaf started to smoke. Black plumes wafted from her hand. She gathered more leaves and within moments the fire had taken hold. She crawled through the earth to the front door, her clothes ripped and shredded. With an ear to the front door she paused waiting for a break in the howls. None seemed to come. She was out of time. She burst through the door. She was lucky, Michael was on the floor at the other side of the door but the beast had seen her. It snarled, it’s sharp blue eyes forced upon hers. It let out a long deep howl, vibrating at her heart. Lucy surged forward, grabbed Michael's feet and dragged him to the front door. She struggled, inching him closer and closer to the front door. By the time she had reached the front door, the beast had stopped howling. It was in pursuit. It plowed through the table and chairs, obliterating them in the process. With a final heave, she dragged Michael out the front door and slammed the door shut behind her. The beast thudded hard against the solid oak pulsating to the aftershock. Another howl, longer and deeper. The stone walls shook with the vibration. The fire was in full flare. The flames had surrounded the house. Michael was regaining consciousness. He stirred and moaned. Lucy pulled him to his feet with Michael assisting with the little strength he had. The front door was aflame. The beast howled then screeched and then nothing. Michael was at his feet. They were safe. Lucy turned and watched the flames burn up the night sky.

The first rays of the morning light beamed through the open tent. The fabric rustled to the chorus of the early morning song of the wind and the birds. Julie stretched and yawned. Her body awakened to the fresh morning air. She stumbled around the tent. James appeared at her side.

‘How did you sleep’ he queried.

‘I slept well. How about you?’ he responded.

She nodded as she stared at the cigarette butt smouldering in the simmering camp fire.

‘Where are Lucy and Michael’ she retorted.

James shook his head, he too was staring at the fire. He turned to Julie

‘What was in that cigarette?’

Michael’s bones ached. His skin burned. His body was weeping blood. He stood mesmerised at the flames. As he stood staring at his feet a timber plague burned. The flames had etched away most of the fresh wood and coated it with a black powder. He gazed at the only words visible, ‘Dr Simpson’. The words disintegrating in front of his eyes and the name was gone. Michael looked up at Lucy. She was brilliant; she was aglow; she was avenged.

As the first rays of light fell upon the burnt out campfire a quiet rumbling howl could be bellowed? in the distance.

‘Did you hear that?’ perked Julie

‘It was probably just a wolf’ he replied as he packed up his tent.

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