Fiction: Husks

Alick immediately unholstered his rifle and threw his body against the concrete wall that was adjacent to the fire he started. He wasn’t hearing things this time; the cries grew louder among the sound of snapping twigs and rustling leaves. Even in rural forests they wandered. He hoped there was only one this time, and carefully peaked around the support column at the corner of the wall. He spotted a dark silhouette moving among the trees, drawn towards the smoke of the fire perhaps. This one looked female, and smaller than most, luckily. It stumbled closer, out of the woods and into the clearing, shrieking, muttering horrible words exacerbated from the darkest memories of its past life. He always tried not to pay attention to what they said, something about it disturbed him more than their appearance, almost more than the danger itself. He had to act – it was getting nearer to him, scaling along the other side of the wall. Not wanting to fire his rifle, he instead gripped it in the melee position, ready to smash the abomination’s head the moment it turned around the corner nearest to him. His anticipation was misplaced – as he quickly turned around he saw that it had just rounded the opposite end of the wall behind him. The blackened eyes gazed into his, its gaping jaw clenched for a moment and then opened again as it stumbled quickly towards Alick – “.. you s-said you’d take care of me dad WHY DID YOU LEA!-“, the rifle butt slammed hard against its forehead, knocking it back, but it was undeterred, and lunged forward screaming with blind hatred in the hollows of its eyes. Alick stepped back and placed his boot square on its chest, knocking it down. As it thrashed on the ground he rushed it, stomping on its head over and over. Even as its jaw was crushed under his heavy boot, it screamed, and managed to grab hold of Alick’s leg to his surprise. He tried to shake it off, but the creature’s grip was deceptively strong. It jammed its face into his leg, and even though its jaw was broken beyond use, it tried to bite him. Alick panicked, throwing his rifle down to draw his pistol, and fired two shots. It slumped off of his leg, leaving a trail of its filth in his pants. Its body convulsed spasmodically in the dirt. At least the screaming had stopped.

Firing his gun was the last thing Alick wanted to do. They seem attracted to sound, among other things. His heart beating in his ears, he scanned the perimeter, over and over, spinning wildly. The fear turned into paranoia, it was unbearable. The silhouettes of the trees against the darkening sky played tricks on him. Their looming presence overhead made him feel like he was being watched. He looked at the creature again, its body was still. He kicked it hard, and there was no reaction. “I have to get the fuck out of here” he thought to himself. He kicked the fire out and grabbed his gear, throwing it over his shoulder along with his Winchester.

He made a break towards the trees, running uphill on adrenaline until he reached the edge of a farm field at the top. The dying light dimly illuminated the stretch of land before him, leading his eyes to a large barn. “If I could find a way inside… provided it’s safe… get up into the loft”, he thought to himself. He started towards it, halfway between walking and jogging, the mud caking his boots and fatiguing him. As the barn grew closer, he became tired and slowed down to a walk. Looking at his surroundings, he saw that while there was mostly open fields, to his right lay a cornfield. He wondered if there was anything within it. He kept his eye on it as he approached the barn. The pale wooden structure seemed isolated, and Alick had no interest in where its connected path lead to at that moment, which disappeared into a forest road about 70 yards away. He walked along the building’s perimeter from the backside until he came to the double-gate at its side. He noticed that it didn’t seem to be locked, and wondered what the implications were. Peering in through a missing plank, he could barely see hay bales, farm equipment, and tractor tires. He could hear nothing, and this was good, since they generally made a good amount of noise. It was silent, apart from the sound of the wind. He looked back at the corn field, the stalks swaying gently, and stared at it for several seconds before turning back to the door. Unhinging the mechanism, he slowly opened the doors and crept into the barn.

To be continued…

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