The Prey.

Been some time since I have posted anything. However, I have been working on this piece of writing for the last couple of months. With this time of year and with Megan and I’s love of horror/thriller movies — I wanted to take a crack at my own horror story featuring one of my favorite creatures. Would love to hear your thoughts on what type of creature it is. I assure you it is generally not the most obvious of one that comes to mind. Though it should be fairly obvious to some.

Not sure how I feel about this piece yet. As usual though it’s not about how I feel about it. I want to know what you, the reader think of this. Please, let me know your thoughts. Would love to know if this evokes any kind of emotion, I have not written anything like this before. Not with the purpose I did here, at least.

The Prey.

They’re out there. It’s far too quiet for them not to be.

Candles burn as I sit at a lone cherry-wood table in the only chair within this cabin. The Moon has waned deeply and there is little light aside from my small beacons.

I cannot see the creatures, or is it creature? Heard so many noises on my way out it’s difficult to tell. I can remember only singular breathing on the back of my neck when I found this journal within the nearby mines.

Looking down at my leg I can see that my wound from the fall has not bled through its dressing. Before continuing with my find I contemplate ripping off the other long sleeve but decide against it.

The book is so burned, dry, and ashen that pages just crack and fall out as singular leaves. Few can be read but one actually catches my attention. It’s barely legible chicken scratch but the point gets across clearly:

It’s true. All of it. Every word.

Many that also could have served me more information are damaged into obscurity. I frantically shift all the loose pages around the table searching for something else to give me any kind of clue what owned that hot breath with stench of rotten flesh. There’s a stain on my left shoulder. A yellow-brown mucous that has hardened and fused to my skin. I refuse to give thought to what it could be doing to me otherwise. There must be answers within the journal. There must be.

Another legible page, though this one is sketches with notes. One of an appendage, curled and many-knuckled. It is sparsely haired with a rough rock bespeckled hide and a long, curved, bulbous black stinger — at its end.

I can’t be bothered with details like those right now, it’s the mucous, what about the mucous?

In frustration and desperation my hands fling the majority of the papers flipping & crashing into the rotten wood floor beneath my feet. Many of the dry pages break into multiple pieces on impact. I can’t be bothered with them any more, just need to wait until the light comes and the doctor will have a visit from me.

Besides, if there is anything about this shit on my shoulder in there it’s not like I can do anything about it until the morning anyways. Just need to calm myself down and try to sleep for the night. The feeling of being chased seems to have gone. It’s not so quiet out there now.

After blowing out the candles, I lie down on my back with my hands clasped over my chest looking straight into the ceiling. For a moment I second guess myself and look back over at the table. Won’t be much use to myself getting to the doctor if I’m too tired to walk in the morning. Gotta go through with it.

Giving an exhausted sigh I close my eyes and focus on the wind.

I can tell it is light out because it is shining through my eyelids. They’re just proving quite difficult to open. If I could move my arms towards my eyes to find out what is going on it would be useful. That’s just it though, I am completely immobile.

Through what seems like an hour of effort I am able to pry my eyelids open. They crack slowly, painfully. It feels as though I have eyelashes pulled out and stuck to each, other lid. With eyes open it’s noticeable I’m still positioned in the same spot lying on my back staring at the ceiling.

It is morning, and the sun is out. Nothing more can be discerned because I cannot move my neck and my eyes can’t see any part of me other than my nose.  That’s when I cross my eyes and see it — the mucous. It’s spread from my shoulder to everywhere on my body, like an infection.

My mind goes into panic mode for a moment but logic kicks in almost immediately. I literally cannot do anything. Can’t jostle myself or move in any way to attempt an escape, entirely immobile and vulnerable. The only thing to be done is hope that the spreading is over and given time the substance will break down and weaken enough for me to break free.

As the waiting goes on and time passes I begin to feel the wood underneath me shift. Though I am unable to move myself it does not seem that I have fused to the floor beneath me.

The panels on the floor move all around me. From head to toe, and left to right. Almost as if the cabin is sizing me up and down — feeling my weight and shape. There’s a discomfort rising from my gut and into my throat. I swallow loudly. Though the mucous has hardened all over my entire body it is porous enough for sweat to make it through. My senses are hyper-elevated, ears hearing the fear-sweat from my head dripping onto the wood.

That’s when I feel and smell that hot breath again. Coming through the floorboards directly underneath my head. Long, slow, hungry breaths. The stench of death overpowering and many layered, all that much stronger than the night before.

Whatever it is beneath me stays for what feels like an eternity. Nothing but that oppressive predatory breathing — smelling of rotten animal carcass left on the road. A pattern begins of three short breaths in quick succession followed by a long inhale and then low, rumbling exhale from deep in the throat.

I hear scratching start on the floor. Can feel the movement of the boards again but this time it is different. It feels more impatient than inquisitive. It’s everywhere below me and sounding a bit violent.

Experiencing this wakes the panic in me again. It’s been a number of hours since the morning and I have been attempting to gain some range of movement in my head and neck. As I suspected the organic mucous encasing me has been worn down from time and all of the sweat that I have been producing throughout the situation. Everywhere else it is too thick around me to make progress yet, but I can feel the encasement finally crack under the strength of my neck; able to look around at the cabin again.

Then I see it.

Just the small tip of a needle. Jet black, and glistening in the disappearing daylight. Darting in and out of the spaces between the rotten boards. All around me, and from what I can hear… taking little picks at the mucous covering my back.

Starting to get very rattled now. Need to find some way to get out of this situation and get more information out of that book. The mucous only seems to be a way to immobilize prey — do not think I am in any inherent danger from the substance itself anymore.  Danger however, is very close. At this point I am almost certain it was only one creature chasing me out of the mines and that it was only ever one creature haunting this region.

Head has full range of movement now and am starting to be able to shift my shoulders a bit. All activity below me has ceased for the time being and outside of the cabin is quiet. The sun is nearly below the horizon. I’ve begun to be able to use my neck and shoulders as a lift to rock back and forth and flip myself over. After a minute my rocking has enough momentum for me to get the full one-hundred-eighty degrees. My shoulder slowly rounds the apex of the rotation until my chest falls flat onto the ground with a thud.

I hear the hardened mucous on my stomach and knees crack and buckle.

Under the new weight, my arms have increased freedom within their prison. As I wriggle them under me I see that my nose lies between two of the rotten boards and there is a sliver about a quarter inch wide through which I can see blackness. There is little light outside and unless I can free myself there will be none inside shortly.

Carefully scanning the sliver of blackness to spot my tormentor I work my arms free of their trappings. The flakes of the broken and removed mucous rap lightly on the floor like rice shaken in a glass jar. Some fall through the space between the boards but make no sound to be heard. Now that my arms and chest are free I’m able to flip over again and begin to pull the cocoon off myself. Starting with my face I rip off flakes of the stuff, scratching all over and rubbing off as much as I can. As if shampooing, my hands frantically run across my scalp. I use as much strength as possible to dig my fingernails into the crust and rip it off.

There comes a point where I see my black hair come off with it, flakes at a time. Then a sharp pain near my forehead and the drip of blood off my brow which I see land on my still encrusted legs. When I bring my hand down from my forehead I can see more blood covering it, and with this newest flake — skin.

So that’s it then, it is truly fused with my skin.

Upon swallowing loudly It feels as if my throat goes down into my ankles. My chest empties and I am struck with the paralyzing fear that if I survive, this disfigurement could be incurable. What would it continue to do with my body moving forward? What is it doing inside of me even now? Forcing logic to kick back in I work my legs free, as much as possible until getting to my jeans.

I am lucky to have been wearing clothes. The mucous fused to my clothing, but not as much my skin underneath it like with my face and head. Though it takes a layer of two of skin with it to start, I am able move within my clothing and not have it injure me by ripping me apart. I leave as much of the shit on me as I can otherwise, just to protect myself and my skin until I can find a doctor. I must look like the thing, made out of what can only be described as rotten Butterfinger flakes. I dare not work my mouth free — and am surprised with all the mucous coverage that my nostrils were mysteriously unaffected.

Now, able to move again I stand up and limp to the table to get the candles lit. I’ve noticed that it has been quite some time since any activity below me. With the impatience of the scratching earlier I find that perplexing. There’s no time to wonder, however. I light the candles to assess my situation and figure out what to do.

With light again filling the cabin around me I try to look at the leaves of paper scattered all over the floor from the night before. It’s no use, the only pages with anything legible are the ones I found already. For all the shifting below me throughout this ordeal the door to the outside hasn’t budged an inch. The windows are still boarded up and the roof still has rays of moonlight shining through.

Oddly, there’s rays I remember seeing the night before that seem patched up now. Am I remembering correctly? Easily could be not thinking clearly right now. I haven’t had any food or water in almost twenty-four hours. At this point don’t believe I have any choice but to brave the outside. Not spending another day with that creature below the floorboards.

After gathering my things together into the backpack and throwing it over my roughly encrusted shoulder I step towards the door and open it with a creak. On the swing of the door I hear an immediate whoosh above the roof and the rays of moonlight I remember within the cabin re-appear.

Now, frozen solid at the threshold of the cabin I re-assess my decision. Are there two creatures? One above and one below? Which is the better course of action? To die of dehydration? Or… whatever fate waits for me out there.

Deciding there’s no going back I step out into the woods. Small fallen twigs crunch beneath my foot on the very first step. I wait, nervously. There are no other sounds. Then I look up into the sky and see a cloudless night — lit by a crescent moon. We’re waxing now, it is larger than the night before. There’s slightly more light to go off of. Craning my neck all around I see no sign of the thing that made the noise above the cabin.

I start hobbling, slowly, towards outside of the woods and back to my car.

Eyes having adjusted to the night at this point, figure I have made it about half of the five miles from the abandoned mining town to where I have parked. The forest has stayed eerily silent this entire time. All I can hear is the shuffling of my right leg dragging behind the stomping of my left. Flakes of the mucous are still falling off me with every step. My skin dry, cracked, and in constant pain. Blood, seeping from where the joints bend.

Then, a shadow overhead. I feel it wash over me and watch it slink across the forest debris below. I can’t believe with my eyes the shape of the shadow itself — and when get the courage to look up at the place it came from, the forest is too thick above to see through.

This shadow had a great bat-like wing span, wide body, and lengthy pointed tail. It doesn’t make any sense. Nothing about this makes sense. All I wanted to do was find out more about the mysterious disappearance of an entire town and mining operation. Gone over a hundred years ago in one night. None ever to be seen again.

Now I’m limping ever more frantically towards my car, maybe another mile to go? Starting to get more confident that I may get out of this and be able to get to an urgent care. Breathing heavily through my nostrils I can feel the wound on my leg crack open from the trek.

I fall with a muffled scream, something’s very wrong. Upon looking at my right leg I see that the mucous had found its way through the dressing and inside of the wound solidifying the flesh within. My leg has snapped in two just above the knee cap. Separated entirely from the rest of my body is my knee, shin, and foot. Just lying there. Dead and decaying.

Instinctively touch my forehead to feel the spot where I had ripped off some of my flesh with the mucous. It had already hardened again. Heart pounding in my chest I start to pull myself forward with my arms. Dragging myself across the earth and pushing with my left leg. Muffled grunting and screaming with desperation I see the glint of moonlight reflecting off my car’s windshield maybe five-hundred feet ahead of me now.

Then a crushing weight on my back. Enough to stop me in my tracks and make me cough through my nose. Five claws pulsate entering and exiting my lower back at once, in close proximity. Breathing on the back of my head again. Three short breaths in quick succession followed by a long inhale and then low, rumbling exhale from deep in the throat.

My chin dug into the ground I can at least see straight forward. In front of me is the appendage from the journal. Dancing around from left to right stabbing the dirt and leaves in front of my eyes, playfully. Now I know my time is up and have to look. Have to see, just to know before the end.

When I start to turn my head I hear a whoosh, and bat-like wings envelop me removing all light.

Next I smell and feel the wet stench of death, closer than ever before. Saliva dripping onto the back of my head, jaws envelop my skull.

It’s true. All of it. Every word.


Thank you for reading.

If you have interest in reading anything else I have written please check the Table of Contents, here.

©2017 Trevor Elms
Featured photo by littlenySTOCK edited by Trevor Elms ©2017