“Lydia, bring her inside!” Will called out, appearing at the door now with Stuart.
By now the world outside had fallen into a true, October dark and even the streetlamps seemed to be swallowed by the deepening night. There was an unstable air about them all that made Dolly feel like she was choking. That strange scent on the breeze that she could smell before had become heady and overwhelming. It was a gamey scent that was now tinged with the copper of Blair’s blood. She gagged, feeling like it was drowning her. Leaning in her wheelchair, Dolly felt her head spin and she couldn’t force herself to move. Gasping through her panic and the smothering scent of this creature, her eyes stung and tears were streaming down her face. For a second, she felt a small stinging sensation at the corner of her left eye, like something had cut her, making her eyes water more. Through her tears, she was horrified to see Matt staggering forward, towards where Blair lay motionless on the ground. He was getting closer and closer to those horns that gleamed in the dull light of the streetlamps. She called to him as loud as she could as Lydia began to jostle with the wheelchair, trying to pull her towards the door where Will was calling to them.
Matt had wandered forward in a daze, unable to connect with what he’d just seen. A massive creature with antlers had appeared behind Blair and everything after that didn’t make sense. The huge beast had gored him right through but that didn’t make any sense. There were no wild animals around here. Of course there weren’t. Matt’s eyes wouldn’t focus. He was looking right at Blair’s body but he just couldn’t fathom that it was really there. The creature was still there. It was thrashing in the beam of the streetlamp but it didn’t seem to matter. Nothing mattered. He stood there at the foot of where Blair lay crumpled on the ground. Even in the dark, he could see the boy was dead but it was like his mind didn’t want to process anything he saw. He saw the blood. He saw the way his chest was still. He could hear too. He could hear the sound of someone calling his name. He could hear the sound of the beast bellowing into the night. For a second, he thought he heard something else. Like an echo of the creature’s cries. Dazed still, he looked up to see the other boy that had come to torment him, Danny, hollering at the beast. It didn’t feel real. It was like a nightmare and Matt wanted more than anything to wake from it now.
As if a cruel twist of fate had granted his wish at that exact moment, Matt felt like he’d been winded and was suddenly struck with the realization of what he was looking at. He was ready to throw up but his body just wouldn’t react as he stared in abject horror at the thing that was barely visible in the light of the streetlamp. Standing before him was something that had the body of a man, its muscles knotted with a kind of strength that scared the shit out of him. Its lower half was covered in a heavy coat of fur and its bald head was crowned with a massive set of antlers. The thorny looking horns were still dripping with Blair’s blood, sending drops flying all over as this creature thrashed around, making furious growls between loud calls to the night air. In its thrashing, Matt caught sight of its wild red eyes. It had killed Blair before. It was livid and looking for another target. That unquestionable strength and those deadly horns were just waiting for another victim and Matt knew that if he moved, that thing would come after him. If he stayed, it would kill him anyway. Just then, their attention was caught by the sound of someone hollering on the opposite side of the small road near the other storage units. Blair’s right hand man, Danny, was hysterical and posturing in front of the creature. His voice was hoarse from screaming and swearing at it, threatening to kill it for what it had done. In his shock and misplaced anger, he was even presenting like he was going to charge at the damn thing. Matt couldn’t find his voice but he started towards the back of the beast as it started its thunderous charge towards Danny.
“Matt! Stop!” Dolly called distantly in the background.
Danny’s hollering taunts became guttural noises of terror as, too late, he realized what he was doing. The beast was nearly upon him when Matt had caught up to them. As it reared its head back to begin thrashing again, Matt grabbed onto the lowest part of the antler that he could catch and pulled down hard. Putting all his weight on the horns, he smashed them down to the ground, cracking one of the lower ones. For one horrible second that seemed to go in slow motion, Matt was caught looking into the creature’s large, angry red eyes. Its mouth foamed as it made guttural sounds in its throat between the grunts and barks. Matt knew that if he let go, he would die. This thing meant to kill something and he’d volunteered in his daze. Still, he couldn’t look away. He watched its snarling face, the light glinting off it like a stone statue with deep pits where there were scars running the length of its wide nose and its brow.
“Draw,” the creature said in a voice that seemed to crawl out of its ruined throat.
It was looking directly into his eyes now. Matt could see a part of the creature emerging in front of him. The redness was still there but there was a glow beneath it that was fading. A moment where nothing existed except the two of them. The creature was challenging him again but this time, it was trying to search him for the sense of violence it wanted and found none. Its anger was still there but muted this time. That strength was still building but Matt found that he could handle this. He knew this challenge. Looking down the face of someone who wanted to hold him down. To make him run. He wanted to run. He wanted to make this all go away but he wouldn’t allow this thing to stare him down. Not like this. Matt didn’t know if the creature understood this but he knew for certain that it wasn’t using its strength like it could. For that moment that seemed frozen in time, they were locked together, searching each other’s weaknesses. The creature was finding its way into Matt’s mind, using its large red eyes to search the depths of his soul. Matt could feel it but he didn’t flinch. It was compelling him to talk. It made him say the word.
“Draw,” Matt whispered.
Before the creature could react, Danny came up from behind and smashed something into its back. The rage in its feral red eyes returned in the time that it took Matt to breathe in and before he could stop it, the beast pulled back its horns and slashed at Matt to dislodge him. He clung to the antlers as the creature called out, bellowing a loud, angry wail to the night as it lifted Matt from the ground and thrashed about madly. It crashed its horns down on top of him, one of them piercing his leg but failing to break the bone as it snapped off in his leg. It had been the horn that cracked on the pavement and the break enraged the beast even more. Danny, seeing this as a moment to make his move, tried to charge at it to spear the creature with a tripod, only to have it fling Matt across the parking lot and gore him with the full force of its unyielding antlers. Danny didn’t have time to make a noise before the creature let out a wild cry of vitriol and thrashed him into the ground in the same way it had done to Blair.
Matt had landed about a foot away from Dolly’s chair and for a second, they weren’t even sure if he was alive. Lydia was panicked and too scared to move. Dolly herself was getting overwhelmed and beginning to feel sick from the smell in the air. It had all happened so fast. Matt was in front of them and before they could stop him, he’d wandered out to the place where his friend was now lying dead on the ground. Dolly couldn’t holler anymore when she saw him grab the creature by the antlers and for a second, time seemed to stand still but it was over too quick. Matt groaned at their feet and that was enough to make Lydia crawl over to where he was to try to get him to move. By now, Stuart was cautiously trying to close the gap between where they were and the door. Will was holding on to the door frame, ready to catch him when he could get them all to safety. When Dolly looked back at him, she realized that they were trying to pull them to the Safe Haven. It was a ray of hope but there was one problem. There was an injured boy at her feet and if she didn’t do anything to help him, he was going to get killed.
“Dolly, we have to go,” Lydia gasped, her voice barely there between panicked whimpers.
“Matt, get up!” Dolly said, trying to keep her voice low. He stirred at her feet and she felt a faint moment of hope. “Matt, hurry! You have to move towards us!”
He groaned, shivering as his eyes lolled around in his head. He blinked back to mostly awake but it was just in time to see the creature thrash Danny away like a rag doll. The body hit something in the shadows and the livid red eyes turned to the four of them. Stuart had taken a hold of Dolly’s wheelchair handles but his body was locked with fear. Lydia had crawled over to where Matt lay on the ground. Slowly, wincing all the way, he made himself sit up with her help but they all knew that it was no good. He couldn’t run and neither could Dolly. Even the other two knew that as the beast began to wind up for a charge, they couldn’t escape it if they tried. Cowering together, the four watched in horror as the red eyes glowed as the creature stomped closer.