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Second Saturday Stories Presents Gifted Chapter 5: Feral Emergence

Legend had breathed mythos into the creature. I saw myself, as I did with all my hunts, as taking on a herculean task. Man vs. beast, but beasts of great prowess. Not the defeated caricature of the trophy I watched through my rifle scope. Putting a bullet through it would surely be a mercy kill. 
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Beneath the earth in that frigid chapel I tell you, it was a different kind of hell. Even the firelight behaved bizarrely. It was a chore to keep it lit, so I resolved to do small burns only when I could no longer control my body from convulsing, and my teeth chattering made aiming impossible. 

I could still hear the wails beneath me, though they were now muffled through the door. As far as the  creatures who accosted me I heard nothing from them, though I feared opening the door just the same. 

You wouldn’t know this, Lucian, never joining the hunt with your brothers. There comes a time during every hunt where your eyelids begin to droop. Whether it’s bone cold and you swear you will stay alert, suddenly your head is snapping off your chest or you wake yourself up with a snore. Thoughts chastising yourself for giving away your position. I have overcome that focus fatigue through meditative breathing and alternating focus regularly. But I tell you nothing from my  past came close to working as I waited to see a flash of albino fur in that darkness. 

I resorted to amphetamines, but even those effects were dulled. I felt as if a great gravity weighed on me as soon as Garmin and I crossed the gate, and even more so when I crossed the threshold of the  Black Chapel. 

Through the haze of fatigue I trained my scope on the rock wall opposite the great expanse of the pit, scanning doorways and windows. I pinched the bridge of my nose, I slapped myself in the cheek. I resorted to removing my spare gloves and pinching my hands. When nothing else worked I placed my right hand on the ice cold stone ledge. I felt my forearm tense against the cold, but still my eyes would not stay open. Cold bit into my forehead as it slid from my rifle stock to the stone. Distantly my thoughts blazed that I had to open my eyes. 

It  wasn’t until I heard the pounding on the door that they snapped open.  

“Öffnen Sie diese. Öffnen Sie diese Tür auf Befehl des Führer!” The demand awakened a distinct fear in me. One that dropped my stomach and hitched my breath in my throat. I had been brave that night, when the soldiers came, but I had been bolstered by the presence of my father and brother. Inside I was terrified that if the soldiers found no one they would instead take one of us. I stared at the door, but in my mind’s eye I could envision the three men standing at the front door in their grey uniforms. I remember when they left seeing they had traipsed through the garden, and in their wake left mother’s tulips trampled and crushed, bright red and yellow petals dulled by dirt. They were the soldiers sent to find families like the Garmins, combing through our small village like locusts. 

At their arrival the darkness in the chapel seemed to grow to a persona itself and what light I did have started to shrink until the ink-like blackness threatened to consume me. I lit a fire against it but it only glowed with small blue flames when it finally lit. The soldiers kept pounding on the door as my mind reeled at the impossibility of their being there. I thought of unloading my rifel into the door. The fully jacketed bullets would make splinters of the door, it would be a fitting end to them. I went as far as sighting in where a person aught to be standing before coming to my senses. It had to be a trick, make me blind fire in a panic and leave nothing left to drop the wolf. What troubles me to this day is how on earth any being in that chapel could have known about the soldiers who threatened us that night. 

I don’t know how much time had passed but I heard small scrapes against the door that I mistook for an animal. In my mind I conjured great nightmare creatures that it could have been, for I knew nothing of what lay further in that cursed and damned place. I heard his voice then, a voice I knew I couldn’t possibly be hearing. 

“Master Bradley- Harmon.” Garmin spoke from the other side of the door. “Please Master Bradley you must open the door, I don’t know what more they will do to me but I can’t bear it.” 

It was the pain in his voice that brought me to my feet, the absolute agony drenching the words. I crossed the room in quick strides, my hand resting on the iron lock bars before I shook off the illusion. Garmin was gone. But even at the thought I wavered, had I been mistaken? had his wounds somehow been less grievous than I first saw? 




It was impossible. Crossing back to the window I centered his corpse in the scope and saw it had not moved. It was another trick, another horrid defence brought on by the Black Chapel. I resumed my vigil, scanning for the wolf, gritting my teeth against Garmins soft sobs and desperate pleas that persisted beyond the door. 

The day crawled on. I could only mark time by the light filtering in from the jagged hole in the cavern ceiling. It would brighten to a dull white before darkening once more to a dirty grey, and finally a pitch black. When darkness fell the howls of the wolf would set off a chain of answering yips that stood the hair on my neck on end. I lit a fire against it, but the darkness pressed on. 

In the morning the scavengers returned. Sleek black Ravens and hulking Turkey Vultures descended through the early morning gloom to feast on Garmin. In my bewilderment at the rudeness of the onslaught I fired, dropping two of the massive vultures. The rest of the flock was not deterred but rather emboldened by the gun fire, and soon overwhelmed Garmin’s corpse. I could do nothing but curse them from my blind. To this day I pray Garmin has found peace beyond the veil, and that his soul isn’t trapped in that forsaken pit. 

Under the cover of those great birds, the wolves came; the three that chased me into the chapel with the white alpha in front. It was the first glimpse I had of my prey, and I was nonplussed. The fur was matted, and rife with mange, the body emaciated. The wolf had been starved out for quite some time. I could see the desperation in its crimson eyes as it loped through the snow. I could see the pallid gums and the way the tongue lolled lazily. Legend had breathed mythos into the creature. I saw myself, as I did with all my hunts, as taking on a herculean task. Man vs. beast, but beasts of great prowess. Not the defeated caricature of the trophy I watched through my rifle scope. Putting a bullet through it would surely be a mercy kill. 

As much as I hated the creature and what the hunt had taken from me, as much as I wanted it to be over, my heart still fluttered rapidly in my chest. The blood coursing through it was pounding through my ears and I needed to breath in steady rhythmic sighs to control the shakes. It's the hunters paradox. Your body resists the very act that you’ve resolved your mind to carry out. 

I centered the crosshairs between the foreleg and rib cage of the white wolf. I watched its feeble breathing push and pull the flesh around the rib bones. Content that  my shot would pierce the heart and drop the creature where it stood, I began to squeeze the trigger. 


I started my exhale, the trigger crawling closer to the firing pin release. 

It was almost over.


My scope was suddenly a black void. Seconds after darkness filled it a blow to my chest knocked me back into the small chamber I was firing from. I lay on my back gasping for breath as a raven floundered on the floor beside me trying to right itself; one wing splayed at a cockeyed angle from the impact. I struggled to my feet, my chest burning. In a rage I brought my boot down on the struggling bird. I want to lie and say I took no satisfaction from the crunching break I felt beneath my foot, or the strangled cry from the bird, but I must admit it steeled my resolve to take aim once more. 

I kept an eye on the mass writhing on Garmin. The wolf had joined in and was gorging itself on his remains. I watched a raven break from the mass and speed towards me. I ducked behind the wall with enough time to hear it smack against the rock beyond where I stood moments before. Their behaviour was bizarre, and I have no doubt it was The Shaman somehow controlling them, using the birds as minions to ensure his great wolf could replenish itself, but I would not be bested. I would not be left to die. 

When I aimed again I centred the crosshairs on a raven who had turned its beady black gaze towards me and broken from the feast. As it hopped a few paces and took flight I began squeezing the trigger. 

The bird took a wide arc to gather speed, and as its black body passed by the wolf I fired. 

The blast from the rifle was no longer jarring, for my ears had not stopped ringing. My temples pounded from the ballistic reverberations off every surface in sight. Through the scope I watched the explosion of black feathers join the softly falling snowflakes cascading from above. The carcass of the bird spun into a nosedive in the snow. I did not hear the yelp of the wolf but instead saw an explosion of red spray the white ground surrounding it. 

At that moment it was as if the mountain itself screamed. A great toll shook the chapel and the merciless screaming continued, as if all the  wretched souls trapped in that place were crying out in unison. I knelt then, covering my ears against the wails of the damned. It was unbearable, and has not left my dreams in the decades that have followed me from that cave. I locked eyes with the bloody mass of the raven that had attacked me. I felt  the briefest slip from reality, as if my sanity itself was the price of my kill. 

When the screaming stopped a great silence descended on the entire cave. Even in the perceived safety of the silence I stayed huddled close to the ground in fear of what new horror I would face when I looked out into the expanse. When I could bear the shivering no more I finally stood and let the blood flow back into my limbs causing a wave of pins and needles to crawl over my entire body. 

Looking across the expanse I saw that nothing remained except the carcass of the raven my steel jacketed bullet passed through. The souls of the chapel beneath me once more quiet. I could hear my laboured breath, my slowing heart beat. I explored the depth of that quiet for a long, long time. 

The wolf was gone, but a blood trail wound through the snow and into the surrounding stone architecture. I had tracked a kill before. I knew the endgame had begun. I gathered my items and rearranged them in my pack. I was down to the final 2 bullets in my rifle. I prayed that I would not need one to end my suffering at the hands of some unknown horror. 

I hesitated before unbarring the door, but nothing remained of the horrors beyond it  except the bloody footprints that led deeper into the bowels of the chapel. I left that unholy place without further issue, stepping gingerly over the crushed pulp of the second raven that had attacked me. My boots let out lonely crunches, my breath wheezed in white, smoky plumes as the light bled from the hole above. By the lantern’s glow I followed the blood drops into the labyrinth of buildings ahead.