By Michael D. Griffiths
“So, what… you do this everyday?” Nick asked as he picked up a decaying oak log.
“Yeah, pretty much. If I collect at least a backpack full of wood daily, it ends up being about twenty percent less wood off my woodpile I need to burn every day.”
“And your house really doesn’t have any normal heat?”
Pulling his now full backpack over his shoulders, Jack looked over at his friend. “Nope haven’t paid for heat for three years now. It’s a lot of work, but spending two hundred dollars a month on the gas bill is a hassle I don’t want to deal with.”
“Oh yeah, well as far as I am concerned, stumping around collecting wood on a cold dark night is a hassle I’d rather not deal with.”
Jack smiled, even though it was too dark in the forest for his friend to see it. “Come’n, we’re good, let’s go grab a brew.”
The cold wind blew the branches, so they created dark jagged outlines between them and the lead colored clouds moving overhead. Their feet crunched through patches of old snow while they passed between towering pines and clusters of smaller oaks. Nick tripped every few seconds and Jack figured his friend’s fuse was growing thin.
Looking back, he said, “Watch out, this section of rock has a bit of ice on it.”
“Why don’t we use a flashlight again?”
“I just never do. I like trusting my night vision.”
“Whatever, You’re a freak. You know that, right?”
“Won’t be the first time I’ve heard that.”
They shared a brief chuckle and after he knew his friend had made it over the ice safely, Jack turned back towards the path.
And cried out loudly.
“Oh man, what the hell. You scared the crap outta me!”
“Sorry,” Jack apologized. “But I thought I saw something move….” His voice trailed off. “Oh my— Do you see that over there?”
“What. Where?” A moment passed. “Oh damn, what is that?”
“Um, I kinda looks like two glowing red eyes to me.”
“Don’t say that, man.”
“What the hell has red eyes?”
“Nothing has red eyes, not just on its own.”
Nick moved closer, peering into the dark. “It must be some kids messing with us. They have a red flashlight or something.”
“They’re ninja kids then, cuz I’m not the easiest guy to sneak up on out here.”
“What could it be then?”
“I’ve no idea,” he said slowly.
Just then a low throaty growl was heard. It was a deep barrelchested snarl, like rocks splitting against a lion. Then the eyes moved. Whatever owned them, seemed in no real hurry, but they were moving towards their right, off the path.
“Is it leaving?” Nick asked. Jack could hear the tint of fear in his friend’s voice.
“More likely if it’s an animal, it’s circling around to attack us from behind,” Jack said, as he took off his wood filled pack.
“Oh man, don’t say that.”
Drawing his dagger from his belt, Jack said, “Nick, slowly place your pack on the ground and grab yourself the best club you can.”
Nick grumbled while he did what his friend asked. “So, does this happen every night?”
“Nope just when you’re here.”
The growling sounded again. “It’s trying to circle behind us,” Jack said in a whisper. “Nick, get behind me. Start down the trail— slowly.”
Jack noticed his friend didn’t go too far, but his eyes were focusing on the shape moving through the dark trees, its eyes would disappear and then return. Each time a few feet closer.
“Beast of Yig,” the thing hissed and Jack almost stumbled when the harsh words pierced the night air. He froze. It had said words, but he could swear that the eyes were only half his height above the ground.
“I will feast,” it whispered through a snarl.
“Come over here and die.” Jack snarled back through clenched teeth.
Jack might have cried out something, but it certainly didn’t register in his conscious mind. His knife was in his right hand and he was still holding his bag in his left. Waiting, as the thing raced towards him, was the hardest thing he had ever had to do. It became more sound than sight as it crashed over the frozen forest bottom.
Then at the last moment, he swung his backpack before the charging creature. The blow missed, but in its fury, the beast bit down on the pack or at least that was how it seemed to Jack in the dark. A mighty canine head jerked the pack from left to right. The bag was torn from his hand, but not before he stabbed forward with his long blade. The thing exploded in anger as the point drove deep.
Rearing back, it prepared to leap onto Jack and that was when Nick’s club came down on its skull. This only seemed to infuriate the beast enough for him to turn his attentions on Nick and a second later Jack’s friend was down, struggling under snarling fangs. Without thinking it through, Jack jumped onto the canine’s back. His dagger plunged into its side and then again. It bucked fiercely as an eruption of snarls filled the night. Jack was tossed off its back.
Nick tried to bring his club up between him and the beast, only to have it bitten in half. A second later Nick had fangs buried into his shoulder.
Screams reached Jack ear, but he didn’t bother to get up. The knife came around in an arc.
Now there was only one glowing eye.
But Jack didn’t stop there. All his weight was pushed against the thing while it whimpered and after a bit of thrashing, lay still.
Jack investigated the body after its death, but no matter how many times Nick begged him to tell him what it was, he wouldn’t say.