PreyMature

A man tries to escape from an evil force through mist and driving rain.

The field, cold and still, was coated in mist, the moisture clinging to the air like a thick grey sheet. The long grass shook steadily as it was beaten down by the torrent of rain, causing the dull green of the plants around to appear a wetter richer hue. A lone man, John Summers, sat at the foot of a small wooden shed, his back pressed tightly against the old timber wall. A slight breeze picked up and caused his thick black hair to stir. His chest burned painfully as he gasped in the cool air, struggling to catch his breath. All around him he could see nothing but the incessant downpour and fog enveloping the field, the world seeming to disappear abruptly a few dozen meters into the haze.  The rain had drenched him in moisture from heel to crown while the steady, harsh sound of it threatened to deafen him. Shifting his weight, he could feel that his rough work boots were at least half full of water from his long run. He was nearly completely covered in mud and dirt from his frequent falls, and his once light jean jacket had turned a rotten brownish colour from the rough treatment. Focusing on trying to quiet his laboured breathing, he pressed his back more tightly to the decaying wood of the old shed’s wall. As the seconds passed, the haze of exhaustion cleared enough for him to think with some semblance of reason. His first thought was that he couldn’t stay in the open like this. His eyes darted to the mist to confirm that he hadn’t been seen. Straining his eyes against the opaque curtain before him, he found no sign of pursuit. Dragging himself to his feet, he glanced behind him once more before turning to the old wooden door of the shed. He reached out with a shaking hand to test the latch and found it locked. Frustration lending him additional strength, he threw his weight into the door. The sound of rotten timber ripping came with a crunch as the lock tore free of the wall, allowing the door to grudgingly swing inwards. Stumbling inside and closing the door as best he could, he set his back to it and waited.

The seconds dragged by while his chest pounded franticly. The beat of rain on the tin roof matching the intensity of his adrenaline wracked heart. Thunder shook the small shed violently, causing him to jump sharply before settling back down. As time slipped by uneventfully in his dark hideaway, his courage began to resurface. Taking a steadying breath, he tightened his grip on the long, mud crusted barrel of the once polished shotgun in his hands and cautiously peered through a hole in the wooden wall of the shed.

            For a moment he could see nothing through the heavy fog. Slowly his eyes adjusted to the point where he could make out a few vague images. The world around him was nothing but the seemingly endless fields of long grass dotted by what he hoped to be lone trees faded in the mist. Their dark shapes shrouded in a heavy haze that was made all the more grey by the thickly overcast sky. All sounds around him blended into the drone of the rain, while the darkness of the shed provided an added claustrophobic effect to his fear ravaged mind. Looking down from the hole, he wiped the water from his eyes with an unsteady hand and checked again that the gun in his grasp was loaded. He had checked it every time he was given a chance. It had become a habit that provided him with a slight comfort. Something he desperately needed in a situation like this. The weapon was loaded, same as every other time. He hadn’t fired a shot yet, and he wondered if he could even manage to point the barrel at anything in his current state. He thought back to how much concentration it had taken to even try the latch on the door. Quelling the panic of this thought with a physical shake of his head, he focused on the task at hand. He allowed himself to wait in silence for a few more minutes before he dared to believe that he may have finally gotten away.

A darting movement in the dark in front of him tore this thought from his mind in an instant. He jumped in terror and pulled the trigger of the shotgun, hoping for a lucky hit on his unseen adversary. The muzzle lit up with a blinding glare and he felt a flash of pain in his arm from firing from such an awkward angle. The room lost some of its darkness as the shot blew a large hole in the rotten wood of the wall opposite him, allowing in what feeble sunlight was able to filter down through the clouds.  Fumbling to move the slide, he cleared the chamber and raised the weapon to his shoulder to fire another round. Hands shaking, he glanced sharply around the small building. The light allowed him some degree of sight, but it was weak at best. Ahead of him to the side of the hole in the wall there was a shelf holding various tools. Directly to his right he could see an old lawnmower that couldn’t have moved in a decade, but it was the shape to his left that held his attention. He thought it might be a few shovels standing against the wall, but it resembled a manlike shape too much to be certain. A scratching sound from that side of the shed froze him in place. He willed his hands to move, for the shotgun to aim at that point, for his finger to pull the trigger, but his body refused. Finally, he saw movement on the floor. This confirmation of another presence caused his eyes to lock onto the movement as he watched for another half a minute before he finally saw a large rat dart out the newly made hole in the wall and disappear into the mist.

            He stared in shock at the hole for a moment, barely comprehending what had just happened. After a moment more he remembered the gunshot and the depth of his mistake sunk in.

“Oh God no,” he said in a horrified voice, “Shit, Shit, Shit!” he cursed in a harsh whisper as he pressed his back more tightly to the closed door while his mind raced through the possibilities.

 A sudden flash illuminated the interior of the shed for a moment, only to be plunged back into darkness as a deep boom of thunder shattered the stillness. He mentally shook himself into action, using every ounce of his willpower to force his body into motion. It would have heard the gunshot. He had to move.

Leaping to his feet and turning sharply, he opened the door and stumbled back out of shelter and into the storm. He knew he had to move faster. Looking all around him in a panic nearing hysteria, he searched the edge of the mist for some escape from the terror he knew was coming. His gaze became more and more frantic as his head snapped back and forth, looking for somewhere, anywhere to hide. He took a second to slow his breathing and think rationally. This took more effort than he anticipated and he was only barely able to stop himself from running in a random direction.

“There’s a shed,” he reasoned to himself aloud, “That means that there must be a house nearby. No one would build a shed in the middle of no where.” his own voice giving him reassurance, he repeated this a few times as he searched the edge of the mist for any sign of another building or a path. Within moments, a realization hit him. The house would likely be within normal eyesight, but with the storm the way it was, he would never find it through sight alone. In the case of a path, he was aware that he could be standing on it and not see it in this weather.

Ignoring his own thinking, he started off slowly away from the shed. “Where is it?” He asked the world around him, “It has to be here somewhere,” His voice began to falter and show fear in its tone as he turned and found no house. “Why is there a shed out here if there’s no fucking house?” he shouted angrily into the rain. Realizing suddenly that shouting would just make him easier to find, he took a steadying breath and began to move as fast as he could away from the shed. Pain shot through his leg as he tried to run but he did his best to ignore it. Every step was pure agony shooting up his thigh but he forced himself to push onward. He guessed that he must be losing a lot of blood. It would likely find him from that alone, even without the gunshot and the shouting. He glanced down at the ragged tear in his jeans. The blood hadn’t soaked through the makeshift bandage yet, but he knew it was only a matter of time. He hadn’t had time to do much else other than cover the wound as best as he could. His thoughts raced back to a few hours earlier, to sitting against a tree as he stuffed his handkerchief into the wound and tied his belt around it. It had already turned the colour of dead flesh back then, he shuddered to think of how bad it might be by now. A souvenir from the last time he had stopped for too long.

            Ahead, the huge dark shape of a farmhouse seemed to materialize out of the mist ahead of him. It seemed to be nearly as old as the shed he had just come from. Getting over the shock of how lucky he had been to find a house, he was given a small twinge of hope. Wincing at the pain, he quickened his pace. Even if the house was locked, he could break in. Through the door like he did with the shed, or through a window. He found himself smiling for the first time in days. He knew he wouldn’t be safe long. It would find the house too, but he could slip out while it searched the rooms. He began to think that he might actually live through this, another first for the tired man.

            As he neared the building he found that he could make out details through the sheets of rain and mist. It was old, likely as old as the shed, but it was in better repair. Reaching the building, he leaned against the siding to catch his breath. As he looked for a door he stopped suddenly in front of a window. “No, it can’t be...” He said in a panicked tone, “Not now! I was safe!” His pace quickening again, he pulled himself around the house, finding the same result on all sides. The windows and doors were all boarded shut. Forcing himself to calm down, he took several deep breaths, “It’s ok, everything’s ok. I’ll just have to tear down the boards. They are probably rotten anyway.” Reaching for the nearest window, he dropped his shotgun and wrapped both hands around a random board. The steady pounding of rain on his back seemed to intensify with each crack of thunder. Even throwing all his weight into the pull, he could not pry it loose. They were all recently and securely nailed in place and he was too weak from days of running. Grabbing his shotgun once more, he beat at the window with the butt of his weapon to no effect.

            Despair filled him as he sunk to his knees. Tears mingled with the rain running down his cheeks. Another crack of thunder caused him to jump again reflexively. It was another moment before he realized that something was wrong. Something just felt out of place here. He started to scan the edge of the mist when he felt a thin chill run down his spine. The cold feeling of horror settled deep in the pit of his stomach and the hair on his arms stood up beneath his coat. His eyes fixed on one point in the mist and his blood ran cold as all hope drained from him. At the very edge of the mist directly in front of him he could just barely make out a dark shape the size of a man, walking slowly toward him. It was an image of pure black, even at this distance it seemed wholly out of place in this world. It almost looked as though it had been painted onto his vision. It seemed to both stubbornly resist all attempts to disbelieve its presence and yet at the same moment, the very comprehension of it slipped from the rational mind just as the reality of it seemed to register. It was then, at that moment, that John finally snapped.

Drawing on from reserve of strength from deep inside himself, John dragged himself to his feet and turned to face the approaching black thing. Rage welled up within him as his vision became tinted a reddish hue. His fear drained away, replaced by righteous anger at this wrongness before him. Ignoring the pain in his leg he broke into a run toward that evil which had hunted him for so long. He screamed in a fury so pure it drowned out the thunder in its intensity. He felt hate, a hate unknown to man for centuries. It was an emotion lost in time, a feeling of primordial defiance. It was the wrath of the hunted, the hatred for the unfeeling predator. Such predators have always existed, lurking just beyond the realms of rational minds. Their form has long been forgotten by the minds of both man and beast, but from time to time, they do resurface. Everything must feed.  Now in the face of this danger, a hopeless man has felt that rage once again.

To him, the world had all become a red haze. As his vision clouded over, the sound seemed to drain from the world as well. The rain, the thunder, and even his own scream faded into silence as he raced at his pursuer.

            His feet flew over the wet grass and he squinted to see through the rain pelting his eyes. Seeing its prey coming to it, the dark form ceased its advance and waited in silence. As he neared that damned nightmare in flesh, John recognised the details that he had grown to loath over these long days of pursuit. It just stood, waiting, seeming nothing more than a shadow cast on the landscape. A dark cloak, unmoved by wind or rain, was pulled up to conceal its face within the depths of a maddeningly black hood. It didn’t matter. He knew what it looked like. He had seen its face before. It seemed like forever ago, though it was only three days.

            That face was evil incarnate, filled with lies to confuse its prey. He knew better. It wouldn’t trick him again. He was nearly in reach now. Raising his gun like a club he longed for that moment of sweet impact to come sooner, he craved the vengeance, the violence. He could nearly taste it, he would make it pay for his suffering, for everyone’s suffering.

            Time seemed to slow to a crawl in those last moments. It pulled back its hood and slowly looked up at him. It smiled a smile that almost made his heart stop, a smile he knew so well, that smile had once made his life worth living. He knew better now.

            He put all his strength into that one swing, knowing he wouldn’t have another chance. His aim was true, and he caved his wife’s face. He anticipated a crunch, or a glistening spray of blood. Instead, its head simply parted beneath his swing. Seeming so much like smoke, it drifted aside, leaving a trail of wispy black tendrils in its wake. His momentum brought him tumbling to the wet ground. Clutching his weapon to his chest, the rage faded in the face of acceptance. He understood now. Perhaps it could be killed, but not by him, his fate was a different one.

            In front of his eyes, his wife’s face seemed to rematerialize out of the darkness, the drifting tendrils coming together to form that familiar dark shape once again. That loving smile he used to know appeared before him, now seeming more of a demonic grimace of triumph. All around him, more shapes drifted out of the mist. They circled lazily around him, cutting off any possible escape. He could see their faces now, his children, his friends, his neighbours. All of their faces were plastered with that same wretched unnatural smile.

            Then, he too smiled. They would not have this one. Raising the barrel to his chin, he pulled the trigger. The air was filled with the crack of thunder. As suddenly as it had begun, it had ended. As before, there was nothing but the mist, the fields, and the drone of rain.

The End

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