The following is the fourth and final part to a short story I wrote based on HP Lovecraft's famous C'thulu Mythos. Happy Halloween! ☺
Harry pulled her close. "We can't stay."
He sighed. "I'll go out and start the Jeep. As soon as you hear the engine, come join me, okay?"
She hesitated, knowing he was right, but also knowing a great mystery lay in a small clearing just beyond the forest's edge. A mystery that had been important to their grandfather, so important that he probably sacrificed his life to it. She was desperate to know what it was, but not if it meant risking her life--or her brother's life--to find out.
Esther glanced up at Harry, ready to follow his lead, when a burst of green light shone in the distance. It pulsed brightly, and a gust of wind blew from its source, a gust so powerful it bent the aspen trees and made the window shake.
His voice sounding surprisingly normal, Harry asked, "What now?" Another blast rattled the glass and he shoved his sister aside. "Fuck it. We're outta here." He ran out the door before Esther could stop him.
"Wait!" she shouted, leaping for him, then halting at the threshold. Little green birds littered the porch, their bloody bodies skimming across the boards as another gust blasted through the pines.
Esther could barely see Harry in the dim glow of green light that throbbed in the distance. He had stopped behind the Jeep, his head tilted forward. He was looking down at Chris.
A deep, resonant humming came from where the light pulsed, and a gale of wind whooshed over the cabin, making the roof shake. Esther reflexively crouched down and covered her head. The humming grew louder, the wind stronger, and the window beside her cracked in a web of splintered glass.
Then came the screams.
Esther stood and looked out the door, trying to make out where the screams were coming from. When the cabin's roof shook, she hunkered down again. Shingles flew through the air like wingless birds. Another scream, fainter this time, but with such agony it made her legs quiver when she tried to stand.
"Harry?" she called, then shouted with greater insistence, "Harry? Where are you?"
A shriek heralded overhead and Esther scrambled out onto the porch, heedless of the feathered bodies she crushed beneath her feet. "Harry?" she bellowed, her voice ripping from her throat and making her cough. But he didn't answer.
Another scream, weaker this time. An enormous dark shape blocked the moon's glow as it flew overhead. A bat? No, it was too big, bigger than a man, and its wings flapped so fast she could hardly see them. A long, slender spike protruded from its head, and something dangled from the end of it, with legs that kicked and arms that waved in frenzied panic.
Esther ran to the Jeep. The driver's side was empty. She called for her brother again, but he had completely vanished. Just like Grampa. The wind settled and she stared up at the starless sky, realizing where her brother had gone.
"I have to feed it."
It was the thing that flew overhead. Its food was... Harry?
Panic clutched her throat, closing it against the breaths she tried to take. Eyes closed, she agonized over what to do now. The obvious answer was run, but her feet would never be fast enough.
She flung open the Jeep's door and hopped in. Her shaking hands barely managed to locate the keys puddled in the cup holder. After several tries, she rammed the key in the ignition. When the engine roared she cried out with relief. Her hands felt numb as they groped for the gearshift, and once found, the stick slid into reverse with grinding protest.
Esther floored the accelerator and jerked the Jeep back, meeting resistance. Chris' body lay behind the rear tire! She'd have to drive over it if she wanted out, away from the cabin, away from the horror that had probably killed her grandfather and now her brother. She sucked in a breath, her heart banging against her ribs, and stomped the gas pedal. The back tire rose and fell with a thump, then grabbed the packed dirt beneath it. The Jeep shot backward and raced across the driveway, jolting to a bone-jarring halt when it slammed into a tree.
Esther's head jerked forward, her chin hitting the steering wheel. Exquisite pain shot through her mouth. Something thick and warm trickled from the corners of her lips. She spat blood that bubbled from the hole she'd bitten through her tongue. Blessed silence followed. But it didn't last long.
A rush of wind blasted through the trees and Esther knew what was coming. It had come for Harry. And before him, it had come for Grampa.
"I have to feed it."
And it was still hungry.
©2011 Karen Duvall