Night

There was a prickling feeling along his spine.

Everything was quiet – no movement, no sound. Everything is as it should.

But there was a prickling feeling along his spine.

He picked up his rifle, comfortable with the weight. He has picked it up countless times in countless nights such as this, secure in his ability to wield it well, claiming comfort in the power it gives his hands.

Still, there was a prickling feeling along his spine.

A movement to his right caught his attention. His grip tightened around his rifle, the only outward appearance of concern he showed. Years of training gave him the control to stop the natural instinct to whirl toward the movement and to slowly face it instead.

A wildcat?

Squinting his eyes, he slowly inched toward it.

Fifty meter. Thirty meters. Twenty. Ten.

He smelled it before he saw it. That rotting, pungent scent he has become accustomed to smell. Now, he watched as it slowly stood up, red eyes staring at him, sharp claws curled.

He stared dispassionately at it. He spent five years knowing them. Standing eight feet tall, with a dark and sickly pallor to its wrinkled skin, this one’s a kid still, he thought. Only about several months old and does not have the smarts, control, and motor skills of its elders. But dangerous. Highly dangerous for its speed and strength.

Creepers, they were called.

It opened its jaw, its sharp, black teeth glistening in the night, and screamed. A high keening sound. Right, he thought. The guards would hear that. I’ve trained them well enough to recognize that sound.

Still, he slowly pushed the button on the radio on his hip to call for reinforcements, then took a tentative step forward. He was raising his rifle when it lunged.

His rifle flew from his hands as he hit the ground. Arms flailing, he tried to get away from its snapping jaw, twisting and turning, his hands pushing away its head. Then pain. Hot, burning pain as its claws dug on his side.

He reared up and locked his legs around its torso, trapping its arms as it bucked and screamed. He wrapped his hands around its throat.

Please, God, let it die, was his thought. He can feel his strength ebbing. Blood was seeping through his side. His lungs burned at the effort of holding it down.

The creature seemed to sense this and bucked harder. His hands slipped and its jaw snapped close to his face. Mustering up his remaining strength, he wrapped his arm around its head and snapped its neck.

It stilled. He crawled away. His last thought before he passed out was that he lost too much blood.

__________________

He opened his eyes and saw darkness.

Fear bloomed in his heart as he remembered the pain. The screams. The deaths.

He recoiled as he felt movement beside him. A hand touched his hand. He lay still. Then the hand reached over and hugged him.

Then he remembered. That night was over. His men arrived. That was the beginning of the Creeper purge. It ended five years ago. No Creeper roamed the earth anymore.

It was finished.

Everything was quiet – no movement, no sound. Everything is as it should.

Lying in bed, in his wife’s warm embrace, he slept again. Dreamlessly, this time.

August 2015 | Anchor

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