He had lurked long in the darkness, hidden in the damp and the dirt. As the years had passed he had grown bloated and strong, leaving long behind any remnants of that he had been. A simple touch of thought, made deft by the years, and his prey came to him one and all, blindly, willingly to their deaths. The hunting was good, and who need fear being caught, if nothing is left of their victims? |
Above him, in the darkness, he heard the noise. A swift thought and he knew that some came, as the prey did, every night to his lurking. These were not prey, not summoned, but thought they could hunt him, not lead here by his thoughts, but following another trail he sensed only dimly. Four of them, armed with weapons, believing themselves dangerous. His smile spread, squalid on pointed teeth, as his bulk shifted in the dark beneath their feet. This hunt would be swift. As his bulk surged to stand, he sent them his nightmares. A simple touch was enough, and in the darkness he gave them their minds failed. A hiss of air from a weapon signed the death of the first, as they placed the muzzle to their head, and with a little effort the food that remained staggered to its feet and came to him beneath the floor. He fed quickly, crushing the bone in a mouth grown distorted from years of such feedings, and the body was gone. With greater effort, he knew, those remaining would fail and one by one, though they ran and hid and fought, they would come to him and die.
He settled back to the floor, the pale flesh settling around him and played, sending of terror and madness to the figures that one by one fell and writhed and cried against the floorboards above him. A small touch, and a feeling not known before revives. One of the figures is rising. He throws hell at the one who stands, and it fails. He has not known this before and he is uncertain. With the certainty of one guided the one that stands turns and, weapon forgotten, is walking to the door that the food left wide. With futile malice, the thing below sends its nightmares to this one that ignores them. He lashes out at the food’s mind with dark dreams, to find that this mind has a shadow and a darkness all its own. Snarling and furious, he wonders if there is another like him, if they are sending this food against him. Madness and death are all he brings and all he is, yet the food walks down the rickety stairs into his den. The smile remains, as the other enters, knowing that in the den the advantage is his, and the food no threat to him. It pauses at the base of the stair, and he sends a welcome to it, drawing it closer, greeting it with warm affection. It steps forward, and in the dark his atrophied eyes glimpse a face serene and expressionless watching on him. He lurches forward, as the rolls of pale flesh undulate around him, and reaches out with corded arms for the meal before him. As the food steps forward and lays a hand of its own upon his arm he smiles like knives and surges forward. It moves and the limb it touches breaks. As it glides to the stairs like lightning he sees in the darkness a smile like death itself. The others are moving upstairs, his concentration broken, but the one before him does not call them. He could send the nightmares again, and another would die for his use, but the food that watches him could use his distraction. He cannot let these escape. The thing on the stairs stands and steps towards him, a decision made. He opens his mouth to the morsel, waiting passively for it to come to him and die. As he touches its mind, a flicker of shadow uncoils and he sees pain and hatred and anger within it. The warning is not enough, and as he struggles to pull back, fingers close in his flesh and one shrivelled eye is ripped from its socket. A thin scream of agony wails from his throat. He has not been hurt in years and his wasted voice cannot express the shock and fury that prey should fight. Immersed in agony and outrage he does not react to stop the new pain, white hot in his body, and flails as supple fingers reach into the cut and rip it wide. As his vision fades to darkness he takes with him the sight of the face, pale in the shadows as serenity replaces hunger, and realises that his is not the only kind of darkness.
The man in the cellar looks at the wasted corpse before him, folds of empty flesh draped around it, matchstick arms pitfully broken, and hears the others moving. In the moments before they arrive he slices the injuries with blades, covering them and his hands thoroughly in blood. As they stagger to the stairs and freeze at the site before them, the serenity on the face fades to humanity and he looks at them, plainly in shock. “It attacked me.” His voice breaks, and the others step forwards. He is taken out to the car and left to sit while they clean up the corpse. There will be a long discussion, when they get back to their base, over this and the other creatures they have killed in these last weeks. They are a good team, but as he looks into the night at the fire in the house and sees the future of investigations and creature-slayings, he knows that they will never understand that the worst monsters are human.
copyright A.Whetton 2000.