The group saw the hulking mass of muscle and anger stomping their way towards them. Matt was barely coherent but his eyes kept rolling and started to focus. He became aware of Lydia whimpering as she pulled on him on one side while Dolly clutched to his collar. No one spoke as they watched the beast come forward, taking long, determined strides. Stuart inched back towards Will who was looking around helplessly at the group and trying to keep the rift open. Suddenly the beast stopped, his form now covered in shadow and his red eyes gleaming at them. The pause seemed to last for far too long as the night air chilled them completely. Matt suddenly came to and looked at him, terrified. His feet began to move in time with Lydia’s pulls as the creature in front of them snorted and began to move forward again. The beast stalked with thunderous steps, its breath coming in great huffs of vapor as it came closer. Dolly could feel the tremors of its strides ringing through her chair. Matt had managed to scramble closer to them now but he could barely move his leg without feeling the pain run through it. No one moved or made a sound. Even Will behind them was silent as he watched in horror. Dolly couldn’t look away but her vision was getting blurry and she couldn’t focus. She was gasping for air and suddenly realized the stench from before the creature appeared had gotten worse.
With tears streaming down her face, she looked over to see red eyes glowering from the shadows between another storage unit. And yet another set of eyes glowing from another nearby shadow. The beast in front of them called out again, its agitation reaching its peak. The sound it bellowed echoed everywhere, making them all wince at it before it brought its horns down on the pavement, cracking it in places. Before Dolly could utter a word of warning about the other eyes to everyone else, the creature began to charge. Scrambling backwards as best they could, Dolly could barely get her chair to move, Matt was dragging himself back and Lydia was running out of strength to haul him. Stuart was trying desperately to make the chair move but the wheel had caught on a new crack in the pavement and the two of them couldn’t seem to make it budge. By now Will was calling out Dolly’s name frantically.
The beast was within five feet of the soles of Matt’s shoes when a brief gust of wind carried that same feral scent on it and suddenly the creature charging them was thrown to the ground, its antlers locked in with another snarling creature, this one bigger and snarling just as loud. They thrashed wildly at each other, calling in grunts and snarls as the pushed against the other’s horns. Another cry could be heard nearby.
“Dolly! Look at me!” Will called, his voice barely audible over the howling cries of at least two different creatures somewhere close by.
The clatter of the horns hitting each other and pavement was deafening. The two beasts were calling loudly at each other in full throated cries. Sometimes, beneath the echo of their struggle, Dolly could pick out another call. Some of them far but most were coming closer. She knew from the smell of the air now that there were many of them and far too many to stay safe by hoping that they could get away with just standing still. She looked back at Stuart who was in full panic mode and fumbling to make the chair move over the crack that it was caught in. Beyond him Will was calling to her, his voice nearly completely swallowed the sounds of the beastly cries and the clamor around him. She strained to hear him as he called her name. Suddenly, the area around the doorway began to waver and become larger. Will was taken by surprised but quickly recovered when he realized the fireplace behind him was real again. He flailed for them to look at him, making wild gestures and calling all their names.
“You guys, look!” Dolly started to say. She stopped when she noticed a smaller creature staring at them. Its intensive red glare was fixed on them and its horns already lowered. “Shit! Guys look at Will! Hurry!”
“Dolly I can’t pull him and he can’t move,” Lydia said, tearfully as she clutched to Matt. “It’s coming for us.”
“Ignore it for now,” Dolly called at the top of her lungs. “Trust me! Please just look at Will and hurry!”
Matt couldn’t look away though. His body was feeling the waves of pain as if there was a red hot infection running through him. His blood was racing as he met the creature’s gaze as it began to rush them. He looked into its eyes and felt a kind of sweeping emotion like he had when he’d looked into the gaze of the first creature but this one was different. Angry to the point of seething and with an under current of something akin to hatred in it, the smaller beast called and Matt felt compelled to jump up to meet its challenge, if he could have moved. To his surprise, he didn’t jump up to meet his challenger but he did move faster than he intended. Despite the pain, he felt a kind of rush inside himself and he ground his teeth to keep himself in check. He couldn’t look away and for the first time since this horrible nightmare of an evening started, he felt something other than fear. It bubbled in him and he felt his eyes burning and his gaze meeting that of the beast before him. That feeling got stronger and it was like a bolt of electricity running through him. When he looked down at the creature coming towards them, it stopped dead in its tracks. Its eyes flickering with something that seemed like doubt. Its paused was brief but it marked the end of the moment with a frustrated holler and brought its horns down to the ground again, sending more shockwaves through the pavement. It was just enough to jostle the wheels of Dolly’s chair and Stuart nearly ran over his own foot as it moved suddenly. Dolly, still clutching to Matt’s collar, hauled him backwards as the four of them began to move towards Will. With his concentration broken, Matt looked around and felt the power that had been flowing through him come to a halt. The beast that had been charging hollered and began to run towards them, this time full tilt.
Dolly was clutching to both the chair and Matt’s shirt as the other two dragged their way towards the ever widening doorway. Will cautiously made his way forward to meet them, the edges of the Safe Haven getting less stable the more they expanded. The more it extended to meet Dolly and the others, the more it began to take on weirder shapes and accessories. Living trees became part of the walls and the fireplace warped to look more like the stone was being twisted and stretched. The floor was starting to take on cracks too in the stone. Dolly had to maintain eye contact with Will to ignore the sound of the stomping feet behind her. The doorway was wavering and she prayed that nothing else would make its way in. She could tell that this wasn’t safe and she knew that if they did this wrong or another creature disrupted everything, Will might lose a way into the rift and they would be stuck in a dark storage unit all night with an injured boy. She could hear the clattering behind her. There were noises that were so close that she knew that if they didn’t get to Will quickly, they would all be stuck outside.
Matt didn’t know where they were going but he pushed along with his good leg to get away from the beast as it closed in on him. It wanted to rip him apart and if it got any closer, it was going to get its chance. Using the cracks to push himself backwards, Matt dragged his bad leg along, ignoring the pain as he pushed at Dolly’s chair and the gap between them and Will was getting smaller . The beast was closer still. It was nearly upon them when suddenly it came to a halt and seemed to bounce back.
It took a second for the group to realize that it had reached the boundary of the Safe Haven. Matt took the opportunity to scramble back further as the creature shook itself back to normal but a good deal of its momentum had been spent. Still, the fury in its eyes as it looked at them all was building. It huffed and lowered its horns before thrashing at the boundary where the Safe Haven started. The group scuttled back when they saw the edges of it ripple. It was enough that the beast was willing to try to break through. It backed up, its eyes blazing at Matt. They inched back further but Will was suddenly distracted by a strange lanky shadow that appeared behind the beast. The shadow became a distinctive shape and he saw the flash of what he swore were white gloves.
Will shrieked and hid behind Dolly’s chair. It was enough to wake Toby, covering the entire group in a layer of webbing, distracting them all from the sense of imminent danger. It was also distracting to the creature who paused in confusion for only a second. It was enough time to allow something to grasp it and suddenly the darkness had a hold of the beast and it effortlessly hauled it into the shadows.
“What the hell was that?” Dolly whispered
“Close the door, Dolly! Do it now!!” Will stammered.
She swore she saw a pair of eyes meet hers before the door closed and the group sat in the Safe Haven, covered in cob webs and trying to figure out what the hell just happened.