Predator In The Woods

So it’s true, he thought, it’s really true. McAllister has come to meet me here. His worried eyes swept the tangled mounds of brush and tall shadowy trees that surrounded him, frantically searching for signs of McAllister. Seconds passed—McAllister was nowhere to be found. He began to weep softly and uncontrollably, the terror and pressure overwhelming him. His bitter tears painfully stung the numerous cuts and scrapes on his pale cheeks as they dripped down his face and splashed on his corduroy pants. Edmund was a simple man—he could not handle a situation as horrifying as this. A thin wisp of smoke caught his watering eye mid-sob, and prompted more tears of somewhat relief. There, he thought, there. Behind that browning bush lies my fate. He gritted his teeth and stepped gingerly in the direction of the old bush. The smoke curled into the treetops and vanished into the light greens and darks yellows of the foliage. He began to hear the crackle of fire and the rustle of the breeze through a tent. He could now detect the faint scent of roasting pork and see the brim of a worn gray cap perched atop a pile of sweat-drenched and matted black hair. Edmund crept behind an aging berry bush and kneeled in the mud. He peered through the branched of the bus and saw McAllister, smoking a pipe and slowly spinning a hunk of meat on a spit over a small golden fire. Suddenly, a foul smell entered Edmund’s nostrils. The bush was covered in rotting berries. He would have blubbered again at the thought of his own body decaying like the steadily decomposing fruits, but allowed only a few quiet snuffles to escape from his fear-stricken face. He found himself whispering gently to the bush, patting its leaves, and murmuring softly, “It’s alright now, mother bush. Your children may be dead now, but come spring they will be back and alive again.” He raised a scraped and dirt-plastered fist towards the curiously cloudless December sky, and muttered angrily, “Damn you, Winter! Angel of Death! Icy Queen of Despair! Damn your cold heart!” Then, he nestled his head between the leafy arms of the bush, cuddling up to it as if it were his guardian.

When Edmund awoke, the brilliant afternoon sunshine had melted into an orange-colored dusk. He rubbed his eyes with his muddy knuckles and sat upright behind the bush, still hidden from McAllister. It would be dark soon—Edmund knew that—and McAllister would have to be exhausted by now. He will sleep, Edmund thought, and I will get him. Yes, yes, sleep, McAllister, sleep. He let out a maniacal giggle.

Edmund crawled behind a tall redwood and rested his head against the moss-laden bark. He closed his eyes once more and hummed a lullaby in an attempt to temporarily console himself enough to drift off into a fitful slumber. He fell asleep again, laying his head in a pile of brown grass, watching the last of the white smoke mingle with the treetops…

When he had woken up this time, the sky was completely black and dotted with twinkling silver stars. He turned towards the tree trunk and said to it, “True beauty lies within the night sky, eh?” He stood up, blinking his eyes as they adjusted to the darkness, and surveyed the area for signs of McAllister. Seeing no disturbances, he searched for and found a thick and sturdy tree branch on the forest floor. The branch was gradually decomposing and covered with knots. The end of it was gnarled and moldy. What a peculiar branch, Edmund thought, waving it around in the darkness. He bent down and whispered to it, “You must have been a witch’s finger.” He stroked the long branch, fondling its various holes and blemishes. “With you, my friend,” he said, the confidence returning to his voice, “I will kill McAllister.” He chuckled madly once more.

The forest was ominous and dark. Edmund crept through the inky blackness with the Witch’s Finger pressed tightly to his torso for what seemed to be miles. He stumbled once, tripping over a protruding root, and was startled twice in the dark, first when he heard the loud trilling of a fox and again with the lugubrious hoot of a wood owl. The full moon glowed like a goddess, blinding the mere mortals with her radiance. She seemed to be mocking him, giggling at his petty fear, taking pleasure in his pain. He scowled at her, and after feeling around for it, grabbed the flap of McAllister’s canvas tent and ducked inside.

There was McAllister! He was sleeping soundly, all alone on a cot in the corner of the tent. Edmund snickered with glee. Edmund noticed that as he slept, McAllister pulled back his lips into a strange expression, like a wolf baring its teeth. He silently prowled forward, like a lion advancing on its prey, brandishing the Witch’s Finger high above his head. He finally reached the foot of McAllister’s bed. Edmund counted to three under his breath. He began bludgeoning McAllister’s limp body with the gigantic stick, beating him in every visible place, causing his blood to run all over his body. Finally, he was finished. What had once been McAllister was now a bloody pulp. Edmund lugged away the bloodstained Witch’s Finger, panting and sweating profusely. It is over, Edmund thought, I am free. I am finally free! He dragged his body and weapon back into the shadows and made his way to the berry bush once more. “Ah, mother bush,” he said, smiling with delight, “Now when your children live again, I shall be here to see them.” He patted the bush and leaned into its delicate body. It seemed to welcome him back in a warm embrace.

As he was drifting off again, Edmund heard a faint rustle in the distance. He shrugged it off and ignored the noise, but soon there was another, somewhat of a crunching sound, like a man’s foot was slogging through piles of leaves, that was louder, closer. He propped his head up and listened intently. Now he heard footsteps, soft and slow footsteps, but nonetheless, ones that were approaching his bushy haven. Edmund sat up straight, breaking a few branches of the fragile bush, his mouth agape and eyes brimming with tears. No, he thought, no, no, no. It cannot be! It cannot be! He peeked through the shrub and nearly died on the spot. Edmund’s mind was racing. McAllister! But, but how? Why? No! No no no! He gripped the leafy branches tightly, and clung to them so hard that the feeble leaves were reduced to shreds in his hands. His stomach was quivering and his whole torso was shaking violently. He was panting heavily and hyperventilating; sweat dripped down his brow and splattered on his dry tongue. His eyes were wet with pain, and tears flowed down his face like water pouring from a punctured bucket. He stared at the congealed blood on his hand. He must be dead, Edmund thought, I have his blood. He must! He must!

“Edmund,” McAllister called, creepily calm and without any feeling, “I know you’re here, Edmund.” Edmund cowered under the dark green leaves of the bush, whimpering and weeping in disbelief.

“No!” Edmund whispered, his voice hoarse and raspy, “No! No! No!” The footsteps drew nearer. Edmund’s heart was pounding. “Save me, mother bush!” he cried desperately into the leaves of his shelter, “Please, please save me!”

“Come out, Edmund,” McAllister said, his voice blasé, but chilling, so utterly coldhearted that it sent shivers down Edmund’s spine. My time has come, thought Edmund, I must face it. Solemnly, he rose, standing firm and erect behind the bush. McAllister spotted him immediately. As soon as his eyes met Edmund’s, Edmund was reduced to a quivering lump of jelly. He could not move, much less even scream, as he watched McAllister leisurely amble closer. From a distance, Edmund had not seen the degree of damage that he and the Witch’s Finger had done to his enemy. McAllister’s nose, once plump and round, was a bloody mash of broken skin and gore. In fact, his entire face was indistinguishable, save for his eyes. Oh, Edmund thought, a groan escaping his lips as he shuddered, those penetrating eyes. Those horrible, horrible gray eyes.

“You should be dead,” Edmund spit the words out at him, “Why aren’t you dead?” McAllister laughed briefly, oh how Edmund hated that deranged laugh (it reminded him much of a demented mountain goat), and shot Edmund his horribly devilish smile.

“Oh, I may not be dead,” he gave a horrible chortle as he blandly spoke these words, “but you will be soon.” Edmund gasped and recoiled, the tears still streaming down his face. As McAllister was occupied with his disgusting laughter, Edmund reached behind the bush and deftly grabbed the Witch’s Finger. He charged at his foe with the ever-browning branch again, screaming as he attacked McAllister, “Why… won’t… you… DIE!” He whacked McAllister repeatedly with the enormous stick, no ceasing until the brute keeled over with a sickening crunch, lying in a messy crumpled heap, and bleeding once more. There, thought Edmund, it is over. It is finally over. I can live again! He breathed a sigh of relief and threw the Witch’s Finger into a nearby pile of brush. Rubbing his temples, he slowly walked away, heading back towards the large bush. No more McAllister, Edmund thought as he smiled weakly, no more of that ugly laugh, and no more of those eyes. He shivered and then yawned. Sleep, he thought, I need sleep. As he walked through the forest, he did not hear the sound of a man getting to his feet. He did not hear the sound of a man walking towards him, the green grass crinkling softly beneath his feet. He did not hear the sound of the revolver as it was loaded and aimed at his back. The last sound that Edmund heard was the firing of a gun, and the hideous laugh of his undead adversary. Then, he heard no more.





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