THERIOPHOBIA: FEAR THE BEAST Part 58
Marley came through the woods by the light of the Moon alone, as it bled down through the branches of the pine trees. Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness; she could see well enough. She did not know in which direction she moved or even her destination. Just that she must find Lucas Vale. And that Lucas Vale would be somewhere in these woods. She did not know how she knew this to be true, but neither did she question it. She would find Lucas here.
Marley paid little attention to the noises around her, the breaking of little sticks and the rustling of dead leaves as the animals of the woods, unseen, fled from her approach or went on about their business unconcerned. Crickets and frogs serenaded her from the trees. She tore through a spider web, glistening silver with dew, and rubbed it from her face.
Somewhere up ahead, she heard a howl.
Marley quickened her steps. The woods around her grew quiet, the chorus of the pine trees silenced. She could hear growling now, snuffling. She almost ran.
And then she saw him.
Big as life. He didn’t look like Lucas. Not at all. But she knew him just the same. Again, she did not question it. She knew.
The Beast swayed on its hind legs, took one halting step, then another. Its beautiful black pelt, once smooth as silk, now matted with blood from a hundred wounds.
*Are those bite marks?*
Worst of all, its left arm had been torn away–bitten off?–just above its elbow. The Beast dropped to its knees, then toppled onto its belly.
Marley ran to it.
The Beast snarled, but didn’t attempt to move.
“Shh. It’s me. It’s Marley.” She knelt beside it/him and stroked its/his head. “Poor baby. What have they done to you?”
The Beast answered with a weak growl.
“Marley’s here now,” she said. “Everything’s gonna be okay.” She leaned and kissed the Beast’s head. “Poor baby.” She wiped dark blood from her lips. She stroked the heaving back as the Beast took a deep breath.
A handful of fur came away beneath her fingers. Fur and skin. The Beast shuddered.
“What is it?” Marley said. “Lucas?”
*Of course. He needs my help.*
Marley began to pluck at an open wound in the Beast’s side. More skin came away. The smell of decomposition made her want to gag, but she couldn’t let Lucas see that. He needed her.
“It’s okay, baby.”
Handful came away after handful. The flesh seemed to be melting off the bones. Marley stroked the Beast’s head and the scalp sloughed off under her fingers. It/he gave one last, labored growl.
“Okay, okay,” Marley said. “I’m hurrying.”
She used her fingernails, tearing at the meat and hide. It came away in great strips. Its body–his body–began to leak steam, as if cooking from the inside out. The smell got worse.
Marley peeled off most of the skin and meat from the Beast’s side, exposing the ribcage. And she saw Lucas Vale. The air got to him and he came alive, struggling.
“Nooo!” he screamed.
Naked as a newborn, curled into a fetal position, Lucas Vale lay trapped inside the monster’s ribcage. He jerked and thrashed, trying to get free.
His rolling eyes found her. “Marley?”
“Yeah, it’s me. Relax, baby. We’re gonna get you out of there.”
She grabbed one of the ribs and pulled. Already rotten, it gave way with a wet crackle.
“Marley?” Lucas managed, his chin forced down against his chest. “How?”
“I walked,” she said. She grabbed another rib, grunted and pulled. It broke away. “It wasn’t far.”
Lucas Vale joined Marley in her struggle to free him from his skeletal prison. He kicked with both feet and the spine snapped. At last he rolled free of the rotting, stinking carcass. Naked, gleaming wet with blackish blood, intact, he lay on the ground on a bed of ferns and pine needles.
“It hurts,” he muttered.
“Shh.” Marley lifted his upper body, cradled him to her. “It’s gonna be okay. Everything’s gonna be okay now.”
She rocked back and forth, kissed his salty forehead. Held him as he drifted off to sleep.
Beside them, the Beast’s carcass collapsed under its own weight, just a steaming pile of fur and disjointed bones, melting away into the earth.
Looks like one of Leland’s rabbits, Marley thought, and giggled.
Lucas made a sound in his sleep. It sounded like a growl.
“Shh.” Marley kissed him. “Everything’s going to be fine now.” She smiled. “You and me, we’re gonna be just fine.”
* * *
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!