By now, running came to Sadja like a second nature. She did not have much time to think. Better to focus all her energies on putting one foot after the other. Next to her the man guided her through the labyrinthine forest, dodging branches and old cables, broken pipelines and stepping on polished bones as the echoes of the huge monster reverberated through the air and made her ears shiver.
What sort of nightmare was that thing? It was larger than the huge one she had used to get free and looked about three times meaner.
More flashes and explosions.
She turned just in time to see a column of dust and snow going up, far-off remains of the woman’s voice, more shooting.
And the horrible growling bellow of that thing. It raked against her chest like a rusty saw, each drawn-out syllable a little bit of torment.
“…ooohve!” It said.
Then it emerged completely from the ground, but between the cover of buildings and trees the only thing she saw was the outline of a rounded central body and the body of a woman, charred and mangled, dangling from a stalk. Its mouth was open in an endless scream as it swung this way and that, clawing at the empty hair as it repeated: oooohve, oooohve!
What did it mean? And whatever it might have been, this was a nightmare beyond anything she had ever seen before.
The temptation to just run away, run as far as she could and escape everything came knocking once again on the backdoor of her mind.
Just turn right. He’s busy covering your back. Just go back into the forest.
But did that mean she could meet with other such monsters?
Now that wasn’t such a good prospect. What could she do? She did not even know where to find more of those delicious, delicious tin cans!
Of which most lay now buried and crushed in the snow as the monster dashed forward. She heard a shrill cry with a woman’s voice and more explosions.
Then the man pulled her into a low tunnel.
She hesitated just for a moment as it did go down pretty dark and though she could see just fine at night, this was completely lightless. But she followed him, their steps pitter-patting on the cracked concrete.
The walls blistered as something akin to skin-moss grew on them, growing thicker as they proceeded. He put out his knife and cut at the tendrils reaching for them. At last, he put the rifle on his back and produced a stick from his belt. Scratching it it released a flowing flame, a blade of red light that set the shadows into a mad dash. Her nose itched. This place was, big surprise, full of old death.
“What is that thing,” she asked, choking on the foul air.
A rumble passed through the tunnel.
“It’s not really safe here,” he mumbled, ignoring her question. He looked at her and Sadja pulled her tail closer, shining red in the light. She was panting hard, between trying not to breathe the noxious smell and the strain from the mad dash, but she was still there. What did he want her to do? Was there something she could do?
“It’s not safe here,” he said in the end, holding out his hand. “Come.”
“Where… where are we going?”
“South.” He grasped her wrist and pulled her further down the tunnel. “With a bit of luck we can find a river that has yet to completely freeze, though I really doubt it… this winter had bad news every day!”
“Y-Yeah, I can see that,” she replied, running after him. He took a swung at the moss-like fleshy tentacles reaching for them. She seemed to recognize scared faces in the growths spread all over the tunnel, but she tried not to think too much about it.
When she looked forward once again, she saw a collapsed wall.
Another tremor echoed through the old hole.
“Maybe not,” he said, pulling her to the side of the gallery, from which came a cool draft. As luck would have it, there was a metal door that gave onto a flight of spiraling stairs. They took them and soon enough were back on the surface.
Sadja looked behind her shoulders, at the source of noise and screams. They weren’t even that far, maybe a few hundred paces, and all she could clearly see was a strange metal box perched on an old bridge. It was shooting from the end of a long pipe, recoiling on its tracks. The same woman she had seen stood on top of it, throwing bottled at the monster as it reached ever closer. She couldn’t see it clearly, hidden as it was from the foliage and the houses in the way.
What she could see was the monster leaning forward and bashing the woman’s body against the metal box. It sent it rolling sideways until it hit one of the pillars and its patched armor took fire. A few men and the woman managed to get out and escape just in time to avoid another lunge. It seemed as if the monster would take the time to at least munch on them. The woman stood up, slashed her arm and began tracing a sign in the air with her blood, but she was clearly out of her depths.
The man sighed. He crouched on one knee, pulled out his rifle and pointed it at the creature.
“Now I have to kill her twice in a year.”
The bullet screamed through air, piercing it so fast it left a streak through it. The blast hit the monster on its side, but only managed to put just a little dent on its black hide.
Nevertheless, it twisted the dangling body towards him – them.
The three men and the woman managed leave. The monster’s attention now was completely on him. Rising over the line of trees, the corpse let out a high-pitched wail.
“What is that thing?”
“I have two more bullets. Run away and hide. I’ll come get you back later.”
To bring her to Verna. To…
“I won’t chain you again. Now go!”
He shot once again. It caught the monster’s lower body and it stumbled, crashing on the side of a building, but it quickly regained its footing and scrambled for them.
“What… is that thing…?” She whispered. They shared one last look.
Pic by hiveworkshop.comAuthor’s Notes: I have wanted to write those last two words for months. Reaching this very moment after all these weeks of buildup feels like an amazing release, and I can finally say we are at the first pivot revelation moment (there’s more to come, of course). I hope you had as much fun as I had trying to piece together that particular Eerie’s identity. I also hope many things about the Hunter are becoming clearer. At any rate, thanks again for reading.