By the time she had finished cleaning, it was well into the night. The Denario’s had tried to send her home for dinner with her family, but Monica had insisted she stay and complete her job. Reluctantly they had agreed to let her stay, though she did not escape from having a short dinner break with the family.
The moment she had finished her duties and stepped outside, however, she knew she should have gone home earlier.
The night air seemed thick with some sort of evil air, almost like a fog. It gave her a terrible feeling of dread she couldn’t ignore, and couldn’t seem to escape from, no matter how quickly she walked or how many deep breaths she took.
The first thing she thought of as she walked down the Denario’s driveway was how her parents had talked about the chapitel rocosa being haunted by spirits of an ancient burial ground.
This was, of course, bogus in her mind, but the feeling certainly wasn’t. She didn’t understand.
Normally, she found the chilly night air and the nights that enveloped Corona Rojo comforting and relaxing, but now, it was like the wind was trying to slip it’s icy fingers beneath her skin and penetrate her to the very marrow of her bones; she felt as if the moon were watching her with an eyeless stare, mocking her, warning her.
A thin layer of clouds drifted across the moon as she traversed the slope of the chapitel rocosa down to the main town, blocking the already meager light she had to find her way home.
Estupido…she thought. She did not have a flashlight with her, even though she often left quite late, and the days were getting shorter.
Tomorrow, she’d certainly remember.
A howl off in the distance tore her from her thoughts.
Coyotes. They were common around Corona Rojo and the surrounding area, especially this time of night.
It didn’t concern her, until the sound became louder. She was a good 3/4 of a mile away from the town still, and she had no weapons. Most coyotes were skittish and non-aggressive toward people, but there were always those rare occasions where they decided to do something out-of-the-box. Perhaps they hadn’t eaten in a while. And she was traveling alone.
She shook her head. She never worried about stuff like that, it was ridiculous the thought even popped into her head.
She blamed it on the malevolence of the air around her. It was making her edgy, and slightly frightened. She knew she had to get home as soon as possible, so she could escape the awful feeling that surrounded her like a fog.
She walked faster.
There was a bark from behind her, a hoarse, pained sound, like a dog with a sore throat.
The coyote, or whatever it was, was getting closer to her. She looked around, to nervous to stop, but could see nothing slinking among the shadows of the rocks.
The bark again.
This time it was only a few yards from her, emanating from the bushes. She could hear the creature breathing, which was odd. It sounded raspy, as if it had phlegm stuck in its throat or something.
Something inside her halted her movements. She turned around.
Another bark and some choked, painful sounds as the creature emerged from the darkness, taking light, delicate footsteps.
It was a coyote. And only one, at that.
Monica sighed. It was tiny and thin, almost emaciated, and sounded to be very, very sick. The thing was hardly a danger in it’s current state.
It’s breathing was labored. It looked at her with white, red-veined eyes filled with hunger.
The eyes were not natural.
Monica took a step back. There was something very wrong with this animal.
It must have rabies or something, she thought. Her worry returned like a brick to the face. She was too far from town to get help if the animal decided to attack her. If she screamed, maybe someone would hear, but the chances of that were bleak.
Foam gathered around the corners of the beasts mouth, dripping down into the dust. She took a few more steps back.
It was making constant eye contact with her. She was too fearful to look away. She felt if she did, the thing would pounce, and her life would end in a heartbeat.
Instead of turning away, she continued staring at the creature, keeping her eye on it as she lengthened the distance between them.
Just as the animal started to fade back into the shadows of the night, it started toward her, stepping lightly at first, and then breaking into a trot.
Adrenaline rushed through Monica, fear forcing her to turn and run. She knew it was a bad decision, but her fight or flight responses were in control now.
As she ran toward the town, she heard the footfalls of the coyote behind her, and it’s labored breathing hissing through the air.
Every breath she took was like pins and needles in her lungs. The air was so cold, it felt as if she lived far north, instead of the flatlands of the southwest.
The lights of the town weren’t too far. Maybe she’d make it.
She looked back.
The creature was quickly closing the distance between them, running as fast as it’s short legs could carry it.
Suddenly, as it’s front left foot hit the ground, the bone of it’s forearm snapped, the sickening crunch echoing in the night atmosphere.
Monica could only glance back in horror as the creature paid no attention to it’s foot flopping around lamely, only the stump fully impacting the ground now.
She felt bile rise in her throat at the image.
The foot was merely connected by skin now, dangling and hitting the ground like nothing more than a piece of clothing, yet the creature did not seem to notice.
Then she felt pavement beneath her feet, renewing her hope that she just might make it to safety.
A few lights shimmered inside welcoming home windows just up ahead.
“Help me!” she screamed. “¡Ayúdeme!¡Ayúdeme!” The cold air stung her throat as she called out, but she didn’t care. It was better than being torn apart by the rabid, hellish creature that now chased her.
It let out a sharp bark as she ran past the first house. She couldn’t stop to pound on the door, the coyote would rip her apart the second she stopped on the porch. She had to keep going, until she found an open, or someone on the street.
Or a weapon.
She sprinted up the road, the adrenaline rush keeping her mind from most of the pain in her lungs and throat.
The coyote howled, an awful, grating sound that made her want to cover her ears and huddle in a dark, silent corner.
It was then she saw the headlights coming toward her, and heard the faint roar of an engine over the coyote’s pained gasps.
It was heading straight toward her. She threw her arms up into the air, waving them erratically, shouting for the driver to stop and help.
He did not stop. He merely continued toward the helpless girl and the rabid canine that followed, the lights nearly blinding her.
After a few moments, she realized he wasn’t going to stop, and made the decision to jump aside just before the truck would have hit her.
She rolled to the ground, feeling the burn as the asphalt grated her bare skin and drew long rashes across her flesh.
A screech and a heavy thud let her know the coyote had not had the same reflexes as she. She heard the animal cry out, it’s voice soon silenced by a welling of blood in it’s throat.
There was another screech as the truck came to an abrupt halt and shut down.
A middle-aged man quickly jumped out of the cab and raced toward Monica.
“En el nombre de Dios, ¿qué ha pasado?”In the name of God, what happened?
Monica did not know how to answer. She laid there on her back, unresponsive, trying to catch her breath.
The man looked back over his shoulder at the animal he’d hit.
It was writhing on the ground, blood and entrails spurting from it’s jaws as if it were vomiting itself inside out. The creature could make no sound, throat choked by it’s intestines.
He approached the creature cautiously, the dim light from the lamps outside the nearby homes illuminating the street to see just enough detail.
It shouldn’t have been alive. It’s ribcage and pelvis were completely flattened by the tire of the truck, and yet the creature still moved, staring up at him with bulging, white eyes, snapping it’s jaws at him despite the dangling guts hanging from it’s mouth.
“Obra de diablo…” he whispered, moving around the creature and heading back to the cab of his truck.
As Monica began to get her breath back, she sat up on her elbows and watched as the man took a long-barreled shotgun from behind the front seats of the cab and walked back to the writhing coyote in the street.
He aimed the barrel down between the monsters eyes.
Monica couldn’t watch. She squeezed her eyes shut, tears erupting from her like a fountain as she fell back onto the ground in terror. The bang of the gun echoed through the streets, and she felt as if she could hear pieces of the creature hitting the ground around her.
There she lay, on the side of the road, sobbing like a child who cried for their lost mother, and she didn’t care. No amount of embarrassment could be worse than the terror she had just faced, and someone managed to live through.
As people began to pour out of the surrounding homes, the man rushed over to Monica, placing a large hand on her shoulder and sitting her upright.
“Cálmese, señorita, que está muerto,” he whispered to her. Her voice so reminded her of her father. She wrapped her arms around him tightly, holding on to him as if he were the only tether to keep her from the nightmare she had just witnessed.