The Hunt




A farmer and his family were preparing to go to sleep when they were attacked by someone or something.
Reading time: 13 minutes.

XTales.net beastboysuraj Suraj Singh Sisodia

The Hunt


1

The bright full moon shone on the village. It was a not-so-cold night of February. I had just finished my dinner and was singing my kids a lullaby. Their mother, my wife, sat on the opposite end of the bed, running her hands across my kids' foreheads, smiling.


"...and all the tune that he could play,


Was 'over the hills and far away."

My cattle rested in the shed with my dog there to protect them. They felt safe together. There was little to no wind swaying across my fields of maize surrounding my farm. It was a quiet night, so my kids fell asleep rather quickly. I slowly faded down my voice to mere whispering and eventually stopped singing.

“...over the hills and a great way off,

The wind shall blow my top-knot off.”

My kids were fast asleep. I ran my hand through their hair too, kissed on their foreheads, trying not to wake them up again.

I looked at my wife. We both smiled, took a deep breath and slowly stepped away from the bed. She came closer to me and just let herself in my arms. I embraced her. She was tired of working all day long, not to mention taking care of the kids. She needed rest. I wouldn't have minded getting to close my eyes for a while and listen to this calm night either. The serene melody. The silent lullaby that the wind and the trees and the moon were singing for me, for everyone. I kissed my wife on her forehead, hugged her even tighter, and closed my eyes.

Nothing. Just the silent lullaby. Even my cattle and my dog were listening to it. A quick waft of the wind hurdled through my fields of maize, ready to be sown, and—I heard something.

2

A friend of mine had told me that the amygdala is an interesting part of the brain. He used to travel a lot. He told me that the amygdala senses danger before any of the other senses. My amygdala had sensed danger. I instantly opened my eyes. My wife still clung to me; clearly, she hadn't heard anything. I slowly let myself out of her arms, walked to the window, and looked out. The land was illuminated with the moonlight. It was almost as bright as day. I ran my gaze through everything that was in my sight for anything suspicious. I didn't see anything. My wife clearly had no idea of any danger. She thought I was just admiring the view and the peace. She began to walk towards stairs leading downstairs, where she and I slept.

“Um—I’m going to bed, I’ll—I’ll wait for you,” she said sleepily.

“NO! Wait!”

She stopped at the door. “What?” she asked. Then she looked at me, and I looked out, still searching for anything out of the place.

“Stay with kids,” I said.

“What? Why? What is it?”

I scanned the area once again, and this time I found what I was looking for. The reflection of my house fell upon the field. I looked at the shadow. A few plants of maize were quivering as if they were snitching to me on whoever was there.

“What is happening?” my sacred wife asked again.

"There's—" I looked at the moon reflecting off of a pair of small, red eyes which probably were looking at me in the window, then I turned to my wife and said, "There's someone outside."



3

My wife at first gleamed with hope. I looked at her face. I knew what she was thinking. I slowly shook my head. She wasn't convinced, not until our dog started barking as loud as she could. My wife then knew whoever was out there wasn't her missing brother.

My wife’s brother had been missing for about a month now. Some people in the village thought that he had run away. I hoped so too. People were going missing from the village for quite some time now, and my wife's brother had taken a lot of heat because he usually would be the last one to see those people. I remembered my conversation with him after the first incident. It was still fresh in my memory.

"What happened back there?" I had asked my wife's brother, who sat on the ground covered in blood.

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know?” I stared straight into his small tired eyes that had dark circles under them. "You are covered in blood which I'm guessing is his. All they found of him is just his foot, and you want to tell me that—"

"I was scared, okay, I was scared to death. I freaked out, and it was so dark. I didn't—I couldn't see or do anything." He stopped for a second. "The screams, oh lord, the screams, I can't get them out of my head."

I put a hand on his shoulder. “Was it an animal?”

"NO!" he jumped immediately. "No, No, I know I'm not a very reliable witness right now, but I can tell you that much. Whoever it was, it definitely wasn't an animal. I swear."

Many of the intellectuals of the village, who stated that they wished nothing but the best for the people, blamed my wife's brother. They pushed us to leave the village and come to live here, out of the community, far away from everyone else.

“Lock the door,” I said to my wife, “don’t open it until I say so, do not, do not leave this room.”

My wife was scared, but she nodded. I climbed down the stairs after I heard the latch of the door on the other side. I tried not to make any noise, but it was impossible. The wooden floor creaked under my feet with my every step. I checked the latch of the front door; It was in place. I pushed the cot that my wife and I used to sleep on to the door. With my back against the wall near the window, I took my position.

I took a peek through the window. Whoever was in the maize was moving swiftly, circling the house. Our dog kept barking, but she didn't leave the shed. I didn't know if she did it to protect my cattle or if she was just afraid of it.

When my heart had pumped enough oxygen into my brain, I started thinking, analysing the situation.

The disappearances didn’t stop even after we moved here. But at least my wife’s brother was not a suspect anymore. Some people of the village were still convinced that he was somehow involved. They never gave up on their theories, even after my wife’s brother went missing himself. They thought he ran away because they were closing upon him. Honestly, I hoped so too. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that he was the next victim. I hoped that maybe somewhere, he was still alive. But was he? Were the people of the village right? I wondered. Did he run away, or was he just another victim? A victim of whoever was out there in the field. Were my family and I going to be the next? I remember the words my wife’s brother had said. That wasn’t an animal. Was that a human? Was it the same human circling my house right now? I had to find out. But how?

I remembered my friend. He was a traveller. He came to see me about once a year before starting another journey to some weird place, searching for something even weirder. Whenever he came to see me, he told me stories. Stories of how sometimes he had to sleep under a tree or in a cave, with one eye open. Stories of how it was impossible to distinguish the sounds of innocent animals from those of fierce predators, and he told me that if you feel someone's onto you, the easiest way to know if it's a human or an animal or something else is to ask.

So I did.

4

“I know you are out there,” I said loud enough. I heard my wife gasp. My only concern was my kids. I was worried that they might wake up if they hadn’t already. Maybe my wife comforted them. It’ll be over soon, I told myself. “I know that you’ve seen me. What I don’t know is what you want.” There was no answer. Maybe it was an animal; Maybe it couldn't understand me. But I had to be sure. “Listen, if you want money, we got nothing. No gold or silver, no jewellery, nothing worth your time. I’m just a farmer. If you want food, I’ve got plenty. Just leave my family alone. Can you understand me?”

I could hear my dog barking. She hadn't stopped. Maybe she knew what it was and was trying to warn us.

I couldn't understand one thing. If it were a human, why would it come to my house instead of going to the village? Why would it ignore so many houses, so many places to sneak around and hide, so much to steal? But that wasn't it. I couldn't understand that even if it were an animal, what was it doing here, out in the open field? Why did it leave the forest on the mountain? The perfect hunting ground. That's where my wife's brother used to go hunting. I was more confused than scared, but then I remembered the exact words of my traveller friend.

“...a human or an animal or something else...”

“Wait, what do you mean something else?” I had asked him the last time he had come to meet me. It was just a few weeks before my wife’s brother would go missing. We were in the town far away from my village in a tavern, drinking, celebrating and catching up before he went on yet another journey. We were drunk, the moments were still a little hazy, but I remembered that bit of our conversation.

“Something else as in something else. An unidentified creature, like a—like a monster.”

“Monstahahahaha! Now you are trying to scare me,” I said.

“No, not to scare but warn you. It’s true. There are so many things, evil things out there I can’t name them all in one night.”

“Ahan, but you managed to meet all of them in just one journey. How do you know all of them?"

“I uh—I met this—this group. They called themselves uh—Keepers of the Knowledge.”

“Sounds like a cult!” Had I just started to believe him? I asked myself.

“I don’t know, maybe they are. They told me all of this.”

I let out a sarcastic snort.

“I know how it sounds,” he said.

“It sounds loony. What did these folks tell you?”

He paused and stared at me. "They told me everything. They have thousands of years of knowledge preserved. They told me things I couldn't believe. They told me about creatures, evil and damned creatures that roam our land."

“Okay, wait, hold on, wha—what kind of—what creatures, exactly? Like—like elves?

“Like vampires, ghouls, like shapeshifters and werew—”

A loud crashing sound brought me back into the present, followed by whispers of my kids and my wife, and after a second, a scared whining of my dog. A figurative stone wall slammed on my face with the thought that—It had broken into the shed.



5

I quickly dashed across the room to the other window and looked at the fence defending my house and the shed. It was intact; I would've heard it breaking. I looked a few feet farther. Some maize plants were mushed over, as if...

Then I pushed my face as close to the wooden frame as I could. I tried to look at the shed. I saw enough evidence of a break-in. I had to do something; I had to protect my cattle. I looked around in the room for a weapon and broke the leg of the cot. I pushed the crippled cot away from the door with one hand and was about to remove the latch, but I heard something that made me shiver...and stop dead.

This thing was tearing my dog apart.

Who could do it? What kind of animal or a human have that kind of strength? My heart was racing so fast I broke a sweat. I was shaking with fear, more like trembling. I could not move. My hand stayed on the latch, my other hand holding the log. I just heard this monster ripping my cattle, but what scared me the most was that there was not a single sound suggestive of chewing or eating. They were just sounds of plunging, cutting, tearing and throwing.

I heard whispers. My kids were wide awake. My wife was probably holding them as close to her body as she could. That’s what mothers do. But what do fathers do? They protect their kids. How could I protect them when I was shaking with fear? If this thing wanted to knock down the door and take me next and then my family, I couldn’t do anything. All I could do was hope.

I hoped that after enough thrashing in the shed, this creature would have had its fun. I hoped that it would leave, and so it did. Though not right after but about a few minutes later, when it got bored or excited, I couldn’t tell, so it jumped out of the shed the way it had entered, and that's when I saw it.

6

It was almost a human, a gigantic one with unusually smaller legs that weren’t meant to support that huge a body but were doing an amazing job, very naked and so tall that it was slouching. It was also almost a wolf but seemed slimmer, maybe because of less body hair. I saw its skin, its murky, wrinkled, charcoal grey skin glowing in the moonlight. I saw its head and its blood-covered snout, shorter and more blunt than any canine that I had ever seen and, in one of its hands, the head of my dog, just the head.

It was waving the dog's head around, spraying blood everywhere, including the crops. It wasn't bored. It was loving all of this. I saw it leap across the fence and run free in the field. I couldn't see it, but I could see my crops being trampled. It stopped in the open and raised its head, and that's when I saw the upper half of its body. It looked at the moon and—

A howl, low at first but within a second, turned into something more terrifying as if a whole pack of wolves was howling together, tearing open the quiet of the night in the village. I looked at this creature fear-struck. My mouth fell open, and a few words fell out, "It's a werew—”

The howl threw me down a tunnel. I was looking at my friend with disbelief and at the other end of the tunnel.

"Werewolves? Really?" I said. I was getting a little angry now. "You know, I usually don't like your jokes, but this one is actually funny."

“It’s not a joke. Tomorrow morning I’m leaving for a journey to find one with those—those keepers guys, on a hunt.”

"Okay—" I got tired of his joke, so I got up and said, "—I am really tired now, so I'm going to sleep. I am not going on any hunt, but I do have to get back to the village tomorrow morning, so good night."

And I left. Only if I had not. Only if I had stayed and listened to him. I would know what to do. All I did was look at this beast howling at the moon. The whispers of my wife and my kids got louder. The werewolf let out one howl after another, still looking at the moon. It seemed to me as if it was calling to the moon, but the moon wasn't replying.

The courage of my kids finally gave up. They started crying. Their mother couldn’t make them feel safe anymore, and their father, protected. They were right.

The beast stopped howling and jerked its head in the direction of my house. It had heard the kids. The beast disappeared again after a second. I realised that it was coming towards me, towards my kids. The stone wall rammed into my face a second time, but this time, I did not stop to think. Something came over me. I removed the latch of the front door, ran outside and stood guard in front of the fence. I could see the small, glowing, red eyes marching towards me.

I swung the log in the air before my legs gave up. I swung it so hard that it revolved my whole body in the air, and I fell on the ground but not before jabbing the creature in the face.

“NOT MY KIDS!” I shouted and picked myself and the log back up again. My legs were trembling.

The beast growled and lunged at me. I swung the log once again, and I found out that I had managed to hit it once because the creature wasn't expecting that. No one would have ever challenged it in a duel. No one would have dared. I missed and felt his sharp, long teeth sink in my shoulder but not before I took a glimpse of its face and its fiery red eyes. They looked tired, and I, for a second, thought that they had dark circles under them, even darker than his skin. I couldn't confirm because I was busy screaming for my life. The beast was dragging me through the maize field, and all I could hear was my wife screaming my name; all I could feel was maize plants brushing against my face because the pain in my shoulder was fading away, all I knew was that my life was draining out of me as everything went dark.

...

7

What was that thing up there? So bright, so big, so... majestic. I was running towards it. The path was leading to it. So close. My eyes were fixed on this glorious thing emitting silvery light illuminating the forest. I kept running. Just a little more, so close but no—

The path ended. I looked down the cliff. Nothing but darkness. Then I looked up. I couldn't reach it. There was no way. I raised my head, and I cried. I wailed as loud as I could, but there was no answer. Maybe because I didn't know what I was expecting. I howled again, and sure enough, I heard it back. I jerked my face in the direction of a few arrays of tiny structures and vast open fields beyond them. I howled once again and, emerging somewhere from those open fields—

Another howl echoed through the night.



Leave a comment, share your thoughts.

Comments

Post a Comment

Top Stories of XTales.net

The Companion

Killer vs Killer

Masks

Don't Let Her See My Face

Keepers of the Knowledge