THERIOPHOBIA: FEAR THE BEAST Part 41
[LISTEN UP, FRIENDS. IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN READING UP TO THIS POINT, TRUST ME, YOU’RE GOING TO WANT TO START READING RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. OTHERWISE YOU’LL MISS THE MOST BADASS WEREWOLF TO EVER GRACE A LITERARY PUBLICATION.]
The Beast paused, pupils and nostrils dilated, ears erect. Listening, watching, smelling. Its purple-black tongue dangled from its open jaws, almost tasting. Behind it, the train tracks and intermittent darkness, the highway leading out of town. Before it, the celebration stretched for four blocks, people congested and writhing together like maggots on a rotting carcass. Hundreds, thousands, ten thousand or more, the sweat of their bodies bleeding together into a single overpowering stench. The odor drove the Beast mad, filled it with primal rage.
Silver light rained down upon the town of Ironwood from the full Moon, a cold rock suspended in space, reflecting the warmth of the sun but offering none of its own. A mute, distant, aloof witness to all that transpired below. A dead thing hanging in the air, incapable of pity.
There would be no pity for the people of Ironwood this night.
The Beast roared, announcing its presence. Already some had seen it; others now took notice. A scream, a second farther away. Heads turned. People stared. Frozen in place, their evolved minds incapable of accepting what they saw. Eyes wide with incomprehension, mouths agape, lips moving and tongues working yet making no sound.
Too stupid even to run.
The geese began to squawk.
” . . . the hell is that?!”
” . . . some guy in a costume . . . ”
” . . . think it’s a bear!”
” . . . from down at the corn maze . . . ”
” . . . almost Halloween . . . ”
” . . . no . . . think it’s real!”
“…just some kind of prank.”
” . . . stinks!”
” . . . better call the police!”
” . . . can see the zipper . . . ”
*They see, but they do not understand.*
The Beast sat bat on its haunches. Its bones popped and cracked as the joints realigned , its shoulders, its knees and elbows, its spine. The Beast stood up on its hind legs in mockery of the creatures before it, the so-called masters of Creation.
*Look on me, little ones. Look on me, and tremble.*
Then it began.
Madness. Panic. People tripping over themselves and others to get away. Some grabbed up small children, others knocking them aside. A booth of woodcrafts toppled over, a table laden with woven cedar baskets spilled. From a mile away, the shriek and rumble of an approaching train.
A ball of crimson fire arced heavenward, a shooting star in reverse, then burst into a kaleidoscope of color. Another followed it, then another. Fireworks filled the night sky, bursts of red, green, white, blue, pink, orange, shading the events below with their light.
The Beast ignored the fireworks, just as it ignored the odors of food cooking off to its right, the sensory overload of the carnival itself. Only the sheep mattered to it, the hoofstock, the pitiful hairless monkeys. And the Beast’s empty belly, grumbling, impatient to be filled.
It dropped back on its hind legs and jumped. It’s limbs shifted as it sailed through the air to land on all fours. A second bound brought it down to land on a running woman’s back. A bite to the base of her neck silenced her screams. Blood filled the Beast’s mouth, hot and sweet. The Beast trembled with the frenzy of the kill.
A man rushed from the open doorway of the DOWNTOWN DELI, drawn by the screams. He just had the chance to notice the Beast before a swipe of its right forepaw snapped his neck and peeled the flesh from the side of his head. A kick with a hind leg eviscerated an older man who had been pushed too close by the mob.
*All around me.* The Beast turned its head from right to left. *Good things to eat.*
It lept into a tent festooned with a banner advertising HANDMADE LEATHER GOODS. Dead flesh, skin. Unappetizing. But men and women had been trapped inside the canvas walls, impeded, unable to run.
The tent collapsed on top of them, trapping them inside with the Beast. The tent tossed and billowed, rose and fell. Splotches of red appeared on the pale blue canvas. A claw ripped open the fabric and the Beast tore its way out, blood dripping from its muzzle.
*All around me.*
The Beast struck a downward blow with its left forepaw. The impact tore off a teenage male’s arm, sent him crashing through the storefront window of the IRONWOOD BRIDAL SHOP.
*Meat. Screaming meat.*
The Beast crossed the street with a lunge, toppling a display of framed pictures and pinning an old woman to the sidewalk with its paws. It dug into her like a fresh-baked pie.
As many people seemed to be running towards it now as were running away from it. From somewhere, an obese man in overalls had found a shovel. He ran up and struck the Beast across the back, breaking the handle. His courage earned him a quick death as the Beast reared up and brought its jaws down over his neck and shoulder.
With another leap, the Beast landed in the midst of a cluster of people trapped in the middle of the street, people unable to run due to the sheer numbers of the crowd, unable to seek escape. A man died, a woman, another man, a child, a woman. Blood pooled underfoot, whipped into a froth by trampling feet, sprayed into the humid night air and fell back to earth like great fat raindrops. Fireworks exploded overhead, contesting with the Moonlight.
Blood. The Beast smelled blood. But strange, antiseptic smelling, not the scent of fresh blood, hot and wet. Chilled blood, and chemicals. The Beast’s nostrils dilated as it drank in the scent. Curious, it turned. In no hurry, it walked in the direction of this new odor.
A woman dressed all in white saw it coming, and screamed. A white blouse and skirt, her black hair confined under a little white hat. The brightness incongruous with her black skin. She looked bleached, unnatural. This, too, annoyed the Beast. It trotted towards the woman, who ran into the vehicle behind her, a white bus, with a large scarlet cross painted on its side. The smell seemed to be emanating from inside the white bus. And the cross annoyed the Beast the most of all.
It charged, slamming into the door of the bus. The folding door, more glass than metal, gave way with the impact, but the Beast found itself too large to squeeze through the door. The woman, hidden somewhere inside the vehicle, screamed, louder than before, and the chilled coppery smell, no mistake about it, was coming from inside the bus as well.
A game, then. A treat for the Beast, giftwrapped in steel. A box to be opened so the monster could get at the goodies inside, and find the solution to the puzzle. The Beast backed away, trotted a few feet, then spun and rammed into the door again. Still too small, but the impact caused the entire long vehicle to shudder, to lift up off its tires a few inches on one side.
The Beast hit it again, and then again, backing up a little more each time to build up more speed, more force. The bus lifted up off its wheels a foot, two feet, then dropped back to the pavement. One more time; the Beast backed up the farthest of all. A little extra push, and the bus toppled over onto its side. Glass shattered; metal crumpled. The woman inside sounded hysterical.
The Beast found the bottom of the vehicle useless for gaining entrance. The long white bus had no soft underbelly. The Beast grew angry now, no longer in the mood to play. It lept up onto the side of the bus and began to peel away its metal skin, digging, ripping at the white paint and the red cross. The steel and aluminum yielded to the Beast’s claws, and it tore open a hole large enough to fit through.
The Beast jumped inside. When it emerged a few moments later, it had solved the mystery of the new smell, and the woman did not scream anymore. She could not, without her lungs. The Beast wore her blood as perfume–hot, fresh blood, salty, coppery, full of flavor and clean, not at all like the gallons of refrigerated blood stored within the white bus–and it carried a strip of her uniform, no longer white at all, but sodden red, dangling like a captured flag from the corner of its mouth.
Across the street, the Main Street Bistro constituted one of the few buildings in the downtown with more than one story. Its front wall was made of glass and the Beast could see people running around inside, scrambling over upturned tables to get to a flight of old wooden stairs. What might be upstairs, the Beast wondered, of interest?
It crossed the street with two bounds; a third carried it through the glass wall of the restaurant and inside. One man, hairy and fat, had seen the Beast coming and ran in off the street, through the revolving door of the Bistro. But the Beast beat him inside. Had the man thought to outrun it? Or maybe he didn’t realize the monster was headed for the same place as he? In any case, the revolving doors spun the man out right in the Beast’s path, and a swipe of its paw opened up his fat belly to the world. His scream drowned in his lungs.
The stairs creaked under the Beast’s weight, and they also were too narrow for it. It shattered the handrail as it climbed, toppling it to the floor below in strips of kindling. Upstairs was a second dining area, but the restaurant had no third floor. The people crammed inside–two dozen? No, closer to three–the people had nowhere else to run. The Beast blocked the doorway.
Right in the front, pushed to the front, a black woman held a little black baby in a bright pink dress. The woman’s scream sounded different than most. It contained as much defiance as fear, even rage. The Beast cocked its head, listening.
“In the name of the Lord, begone!” the woman screamed. Tears, yes, but strength. It made the Beast want her more. The baby was crying too, and it (she, the Beast recalled, reminded itself. Little girls were dressed in pink) looked as ripe and plump as a grape.
The Beast took a step into the room, and one man threw a chair through one of the windows and followed it out. The jagged glass cut one of his legs to the bone, but that didn’t stop another man and a woman from jumping out after him. No matter. There were two windows, no more, and too many people crammed into the room. Very few would get away before the Beast got around to them, and of those few, the Beast could expect to find some lying on the street below with broken limbs, waiting with polite patience for the Beast to come back down.
But first, the woman and the baby.
The Beast took another step, and froze. A breeze entered through the shattered window, lifting the thin curtains and filling the cramped room. The Beast’s nostrils flared; its heartbeat quickened.
Unmistakable. Even amidst the overpowering scent of the people crammed in the upstairs room, the unwashed aroma of their fear oozing out through their pores. Even through the billion smells wafting in on the breeze from outside. One scent among so many, but with no mistaking it. Nor mistaking its familiarity.
Perfume. The kind of perfume worn by a woman, one specific woman, mingled with her own personal scent, the smells of her hair, her makeup, the detergent in her clothes, the soap she washes with, her sweat, her cunt, her asshole. All blended together, the smell of one woman, unique to her, unique in all the world. No mistake.
Little Red Riding Hood with the big bloated tits.
And close. Very close.
The Beast lept.
The black woman dropped, holding her baby beneath her, trying to shield it with her own body. Giving her back as a target to save her child. As if the Beast would not have peeled her away to get at the morsel underneath. But the Beast no longer cared for this woman or her baby. It jumped over her, through the crowd, ignoring them all. Another person jumped through the window and the Beast followed her. But it did not want this girl. It wanted out.
The young woman hit the sidewalk and the Beast landed almost on top of her. Another crowd had gathered on the street. Curious behavior. Did any other species of herd animal in the world gather round their predator, watch with passive horror as their fellows were devoured, each waiting their own turn beneath their slayer’s teeth? But the Beast liked it that way. It made it so easy.
The Beast sniffed the air, shook its head to clear its nostrils of blood and snot, sniffed again. Its gleaming red eyes cut through the crowd, the bodies of the people scintillating with heat in the Beast’s vision. It would have been able to see them in total darkness. Its ears filtering out the screams. Searching out one scent, one face and form, the sound of one voice.
And then it found her. Amidst the chaos of sights and sounds, it found her.
With a roar, the Beast charged, plowing people aside and trampling them under its paws, as unstoppable as the locomotive that rumbled along the tracks behind it.
*Come to me, little bitch*, the Beast said to itself. *Your ass is mine*.
* * *
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!