The scream tore through the forest like a razor slices through flesh, unsettling the sleeping creatures that dwell within. The blood-curdling scream continued to ring for several seconds, elongated and gradually turning more horrific as the echoes distorted and clashed in dissonance. BANG! The sound of a single shot from a shotgun resonated throughout the acoustic woods. Almost immediately after, as thunder follows lightning, a terrible roar reverberated, the source coming from a seemingly large beast.
The full moon cast an eerie blue-gray light on the small cottage in the middle of a clearing in the forest. It lay at the foot of an overshadowing mountain. A fog rose from the ground as the grass and surrounding foliage cooled from the previous day’s summer heat, casting the grounds about the cottage in a sea of swirling mist. Twenty meters from the front porch of the cottage was a fire pit, smoldering embers from a fire that blazed only an hour before glowed red as the soft night breeze grazed them.
The footsteps were audible first, followed by the panting of panicked breath. Four figures burst into the open from the eastern edge of the clearing. There was no deviance in their path, which went straight toward the cottage. One man carried the shotgun that had moments before released a torrent of tiny iron balls violently through the air in the loud explosion. The second man following close behind carried a camcorder tucked under his right arm cradling it like a baby. The last two personages that made up the rear of the small fleeing caravan, a tall man clenching the hand of a little girl, dashed toward the safety of the lone building.
As the man with the shotgun came near the fire pit he stopped and yelled, “Get inside! I’ll get the fire going!”
Without a word of acknowledgment the other three streamed passed the man, the second man launching himself into the door moments later before extracting a key from his jacket pocket and unlocking the door. He held the door
open ushering the other two hurriedly in. The first man quickly tossed large timber from the pile, which lay near the pit, and instead of tending the fire properly he picked up the bottle of lighter fluid they had left out earlier and doused the timber, igniting the smoldering embers and the timber in a blaze. Not daring to make sure the fire remained strong, the man turned and sprinted the 20 meters to the cottage door, threw it open and quickly slammed it shut.
The forest grew silent, except for the sound of the blazing bonfire and quietly, at the edge of the eastern side of the clearing in the forest the soft, menacing growls of a large phantom beast contemplating its revenge. Clouds covered the moon casting the little cottage into shadow, save for the flickering light of the fire flirting dangerously with inferno.
Inside the cottage, the man with the little girl had already scooped her up in his arms and raced up the stairs that sat directly from the entrance. At the top he turned left down the cramped hallway opposite from the eastern side of the clearing like a dog searches for the furthest room away from the crash of thunder during a storm. At the end of the hallway on the right-hand side of the wall stood a dark, splintering door. It hung at an angle, the result of a decade’s worth of abandonment; the hinges and doorknob were covered in rust the color of dried blood.
Ignoring the ominous warning, the man turned the rusty knob and pushed his way into the room. The floor and window seat were covered in a thick layer of dust that muffled his footsteps like fresh fallen snow. The disturbed dust took flight and assailed the intruders’ noses. The man set the distraught girl down.
“Stay here, Sweetie,” he lovingly commanded, “until I come back to get you.”
She grabbed his hand as he turned to leave, pulling as hard as her six year-old strength allowed. “Don’t leave me alone, Daddy!” she exasperated through sobs of terror.
Her father looked at her, hiding his impatience and trying to sound comforting as he said, “Scarlett, everything’s going to be okay. Daddy’s going to be back up in a little bit.” With that he released himself gently from her grasp, walked out and closed the door. She heard him walk away and descend the stairs, knowing he was going into the kitchen.