“We shouldn’t be moving,” Keller whispered. His nerves were tangled like a ball of Christmas lights ripped off the tree. He clenched his pockets with clammy hands. Fear flourished on his empty stomach. The things that wandered around during the day would strike fear in the strongest man. Only a fool would be out at night.
Surrounded by darkness uncertainty ate a hole in his shaken soul. Tall pine trees erupt from the ground in limitless supply. They were the pillars holding up the house of their fortress. These woods were their Abaddon. This was Tranquility…Tranquility Woods.
“If we don’t move, how will we get out?” John conjured forging ahead. He opened his eyes as wide as they could go trying to pick up any speck of light. The light was the enemy. They had the light. Seeing light meant death. Stay in the dark. The dark hid. The dark was safe.
Keller shoved John’s bony shoulder, “Lower your voice. Hell, we’re already out here. Don’t give away our location.”
They walked gingerly between the crooked trees. An owl’s hooting resonated in the clear humid night. Keller froze, and chills shuttered down his spine.
Some animals in this place were their allies. They knew what was lurking. The animals hinted when they were near. A squirrel clawed up a tree scraping away at tree bark. Keller dropped to the ground nice and easy, quick and quiet. He watched John walk…walk…. walk.
Keller sensed it. His senses were on fire, all of them. His ears heard the crushing of dead leaves blanketing the forest floor. His nose smelt the mixture of dirt and sweat tainting the fresh still air. He could taste tobacco lingering in the midst. Keller’s shaky hand felt his heart violently pounding against his ribcage. His twenty/twenty vision outdid his ears. He saw one of them. Walking…tracking…. hunting along the trail John left. It stalked John like a lion in the savannah.
Keller leaned against the rigid bark trying to disappear in the darkness. He pulled his long arms in closer to his muscular body making himself small. He wanted to be Casper, invisible. Fear pulsated through every vein and artery as he eased his breathing. His breathing was key. It relaxed his demeanor. If he breathed too fast or too loud he would start to panic. Panicking caused a scene. A scene would lead to his death or worse.
Keller closed his eyes and let the shallow breaths soothe him into a trance. He thought about it before. Before this place when he was just Keller James of Upsilon Psi juggling frat parties, community service hours, and sustaining a 3.6 GPA. He bitched when four professors unknowingly assigned tests on the same day. Now, it was a hassle he’d quickly exchange for this nightmare.
Screams sounded like a house alarm ringing. Keller’s eyes sprung open pulling him from his mind. It was John. Keller peeked around the tree like a little kid peeking through the slits of their fingers during a Freddy Kruger marathon. As a camcorder, his eyes viewed the sight ahead. John sprawled on the ground screaming like a banshee tugging on a silver handle. A blade was planted between bone and flesh.
This was a view Keller was used to. His eyes viewed all of them, all of the friends they eliminated. It was just John, the bookworm that was only an Upsilon because he was a legacy. Not an all-state, jock wonder with steel biceps or a limitless supply of pretty cheerleaders at his disposal like the rest of them. He shouldn’t have cared but he did.
John’s blood stained the ground like fresh rain during April. He was the last human around that Keller knew. Keller blinked, his eyes refocused and there it was. One of them stood over John like the bloodthirsty savage it was. It wasn’t a vampire although it was a monster. It wasn’t a werewolf although it was an animal. It was basic. It was predatory, the fiercest creature on land. The Homo sapiens. He stood above John in all black as dark as his soul kicking him. With every kick, John reacted with a dreadful screech.
Keller’s instant reaction was to rush to John. Rescue him. Unfortunately, for John there’s one thing this place taught Keller, haste reaped harrowing outcomes. Keller kept still. He fed on the fear that caused most to stick their tail between their legs like timid milk-breath puppies. He used it. It was the fuel he needed to do something a little crazy. Hell…a lot crazy.
“You don’t have to do this. You can let me go! Please, let me go!” John pleaded. Marble-sized beads of sweat streamed down his oblong face. He quivered from pain holding his arm like a broken wing.
The man, the Hunter kneeled beside John. His red bandana was stained with sweat, dirt, and blood. His cold eyes pierced into John’s coral-green optics dim in the moonlight.
“Why would I do that?” The hunter placed his machete on the ground.
“Because. I’m a kid. I’m twenty. I want to live.” John frightfully answered.
“Why?” The hunter slid his hand around the knife’s handle protruding from John’s arm. He yanked it out.
John bellowed an earth-shattering yell that sent a nearby crow flapping away. John heaved trying to relieve his agony. “I…I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I… I go to church… Well, not every Sunday…but I try. I’m in college… I want to do good.” Tears sprinkled down John’s cheek. John dropped the hunter’s gaze. It was too powerful to hold. Would one stare into the eyes of Satan with the might of a fly?
“But it’s my duty. I always uphold my duty.” A smile etched itself across the hunter’s scarred face. “Just take comfort in the process. I assure you it won’t take long.” He placed his hand on the dry grass. He moved his hand rapidly along the ground, disturbing the dirt. He whirled around.
“It’s not there.” Keller twisted the machete handle in his hand. He was an all-star. He knew what to do. He bent his knees, squared his shoulders, line up his knuckles, planted his feet, took a small step forward, kept his eye on the target and watched the blade slice through the hunter’s chest. The six-foot goliath sunk to the ground.
“What took you so long?” John groaned lying back on the furrowed terrain. He gawked up at the vast empty sky.
“I wasn’t going to get myself killed.” Keller tore a long piece of cloth off his t-shirt.”‘ I had to wait for the right time.” He wrapped the cloth around John’s arm.
John dug his teeth into the plump flesh of his bottom lip. His blood seeped through the beige dirt-stained shirt and began drizzling down his arm. He looked at Keller trying to tie the fabric a little tighter, “Your eyes!” John checked his volume forgetting momentarily where he was and what was after them. “They’re glowing.”
“I know. It’s night.” Keller grabbed John’s healthy arm and pulled him to his feet.”We have to hide until the sun comes up.”
What do you think is hunting them?