THERIOPHOBIA: FEAR THE BEAST Part 33
Lucas awoke with a start, scrambling to his feet. Something–ants–crawled over his naked skin, biting and stinging. He slapped at them even as his eyes sought to penetrate the thick darkness that surrounded him. The night sounds, the steam rising from the earth with its pungent aroma of decay, told him that he was in the jungle once more. Moon and starlight, if they existed, were blotted out by the high branches of the treetops laced together overhead. Lucas could make out the boles of trees nearest him, like great black columns. That, and numerous tiny eyes, iridescent, watching him from the darker depths, the lower branches, the scrub around his feet. Hundreds, thousands, of tiny eyes, unblinking, watching him.
Sudden panic gripped him, a queasiness that caused his legs to tremble. The Beast. Marcus had warned him about the Beast. The jungle grew quiet, the chittering voices of insects and frogs and monkeys hushed. And Lucas knew that the Beast must have come near.
Stark naked, he ran from tree to tree, tripping on the undergrowth, on wet, slimy things beneath his bare feet, seeking limbs low enough to grab, trunks thin enough to embrace, to climb. But the branches were all out of reach, the boles too thick to be scaled. From somewhere close–very close–the Beast howled. Lucas covered his ears to shut out the sound. It caused his bladder to turn loose; he had to fight the urge to break into a blind run. But the sound had come from all around him. It repeated, shook the ground in its intensity. Branches swayed to the sound, rattling thin leaves like castanets.
Then Lucas Vale ran. He tripped and fell, got to his feet and ran again. He ran, not knowing to where, too terrified to scream. Behind him, he could hear the crackling of dry twigs broken underfoot, heavy paws against the ground, the numerous twitches and snaps of a large body moving through the jungle at great speed.
The Beast had caught his scent.
Wake up! His mind screamed. But Lucas knew this time he would not. No mere night terror, phantom image of his imagination, pursued him. Lucas knew the Beast was all too real. He slammed into the unseen bulk of a tree, ricocheted off and fell, got back up and ran. He could hear the Beast breathing somewhere behind him as it charged, sounding like a blacksmith’s bellows.
He saw light and ran towards it. So small and dim, yet it grew larger, grew brighter as he got closer. Things came into focus. More trees, the ground. A wall of black stone warming to gray. A mound of stone, a bald hillock. And an opening, a recession. The mouth of a high cave, or perhaps a hollow beneath the overhanging rock. It didn’t matter. Because it was from this crevice that the light came.
Lucas charged into the cleft, only to realize his mistake. Not a cave at all, but an indentation in the rock, no more than thirty feet in depth. A dead end that would offer no protection or concealment. The Beast roared, just beyond the periphery of the firelight. Lucas fell, burying his face in the dry dirt, tensed for the contact of fang and claw with flesh, the instant when the Beast would take him.
“Don’t worry. It won’t come in here.”
The strange voice, spoken from so near, frightened Lucas almost as much as had the Beast’s roar. He started, pushed up onto his hands and knees. A naked woman squatted near the receding rear wall of the crevice, her back to Lucas. The campfire splayed her shadow across the stone like an inkblot, wriggling in the heat.
Lucas turned; The Beast waited just beyond the firelight, pacing. Lucas could discern its shaggy, massive bulk, the two slits that were its eyes reflecting the flames. It pawed at the earth, snuffling, growling.
“It can’t come near the light,” the woman said.
Lucas turned to look at her. She sat back on her ankles, painting. Long, dark hair spilled over her back, her buttocks. Lucas watched as she painted on the wall with her fingers, strange shapes and designs.
“You look like your brother,” she said.
Lucas looked at her, back at the Beast outside.
“Don’t be afraid,” the woman said. “He won’t come in.”
Lucas watched her paint on the walls. Painting with blood. The woman’s fingers were bloody, and she scratched them along the cave wall.
“I knew you would bring him back to me,” the woman said.
“Who are you?” Lucas demanded.
“My name is Susanna,” she answered. “I serve El Lobizon.”
“Susanna? You knew my brother, then? He went to Mexico to see a girl named Susanna.”
“You look like him,” she repeated. “You are pretty like him.”
Lucas sat down in the dirt. “It’s in control now, isn’t it?” he said. “This is where I come when it’s in control.”
“Yes.” She did not look at him.
“But I’m not really here. Just my mind is, right? Or my soul? That thing has possession of my body.”
“Yes.” She turned and smiled. She had a beautiful smile. “El Lobizon will walk the earth now. And you will stay here with Susanna.” She dropped onto all fours, crawling towards him. “I have been waiting for you for a long time.”
Lucas watched her, her breasts dangling, the curve of her back, her thin, lithe body, that wet sheen of hair, her feral eyes. She licked her lips with a caramel tongue. Lucas felt himself stiffen. He did not try to move away from her.
“My pretty man,” she cooed. Susanna lowered her head, taking him into her mouth. Lucas lay back, exhaling. He glanced over into the darkness beyond the firelight. The Beast had gone.
*This isn’t real.*
He began to stroke Susanna’s hair, groaning in quiet pleasure.
*It feels real.*
Lucas sighed, too exhausted to resist. He didn’t want to.
You can’t fight it, he heard his own voice saying. Just let go. Stay here. Stay here forever.
Lucas closed his eyes.
And somewhere in the outer darkness, the Beast growled in contentment.
* * *
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!