The cottage was old and drafty, allowing the cool air to seep inside, causing Scarlett’s skin to prickle with goosebumps. As she wrapped her arms around herself, her breathing slowed and she could hear the conversation between the men downstairs.
“I didn’t think we were going to find a living specimen! Did anyone get a clear look at it?” That was Martin Bates’s voice, she recognized. He was the historian that convinced her father and Geoffrey Salazar to join in a snipe hunt for proof of the existence of an ancient creature. “It could solve the riddle of trolls, or other nonsense beasts we grew up reading about,” Scarlett remembered overhearing him say.
Her father, Douglas Hughes was a paleontologist, and the idea of discovering a new ancient animal was too good of an inconceivable prospect to turn down. Jeff was a zoologist who could also not ignore the unique opportunity. Scarlett had known Martin and Jeff for as long as she could remember, and this was the first time she had seen fear in any of their eyes. It frightened her more to know they were terrified of the creature. It’s good Jeff brought the gun, she thought.
“I didn’t get a good look at it,” Jeff responded. “Enough to know it’s big!”
“Let’s look at the video.” It was her dad.
“Hold on, I’m going to turn on the generator so we can use the TV,” Martin replied.
“Hope that fire burns long enough to convince that thing we aren’t worth the trouble,” Jeff stated as a side thought. The sound of the diesel generator roared to life, causing Scarlett to jump at the sound. It reminded her too much of the monster.
“Here we go,” Martin was saying. “You got the cables for the VCR? Thanks.” Scarlett did not need to see the videotape to remember what happened. They were out in the forest a few hours after sundown because Martin thought that perhaps they were on a snipe hunt after all, and it could be the sounds of the forest at night that caused people in the old days to imagine terrible creatures.
They had brought with them Martin’s camcorder and flashlight to document what really happened so they could compare what they may have imagined on their hike. They had walked close to five minutes into the forest when they heard the first sign of the monster. It was the sound of a large branch snapping in a tree roughly 20 meters to their right. Scarlett had become agitated with fright and clung close to her father. The men refused to use the flashlight, which intensified the fear boiling inside of her.
Another five minutes had passed when Scarlett distinctly felt a rush of warm air shoot onto the back of her head and shoulders. Her skin prickled with fear and she began to shake as she froze in place like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. She had begged them to turn on the flashlight. Her father told her to stay where she was while he grabbed the light from Jeff’s pack. When he turned on the light and shone it in her direction they all gave a different curse at the same time. Scarlett could hear movement behind her and when she looked back a large opaque creature lunged toward her. She let out a scream and ran, and Jeff brought up his shotgun, releasing one shot before he hurtled back in the cottage’s direction. Any other detail was vague to her. She heard the abominable roar of the beast and the sound consumed her. She could not recall her father grabbing her hand, leading her on the correct path, nor how she had made it safely inside the cottage.
Scarlett began to shake with nausea and she felt her stomach spasm as her gag reflex involuntarily cramped up her esophagus. The next thing she knew she had vomited on the floor. The smell of sick reactivated the reflex. After several minutes of this she fell to the floor trembling with exhaustion.
“I can’t make anything of it, damn it!” she heard her father exclaim. She could hear him slamming his fist down on a table. Just at that moment they heard the large, evil roar of the creature. Scarlett thought she could feel its breath seeping through the walls as the night air did.
“The fire’s going out!” Jeff shouted.
“Marty, does the generator connect the phone lines?” her father asked.
“Yeah! Phone’s over there, Doug!”
“We are in the middle of the Vosges Jura Alps! Do you think anyone speaks anything but French?!” Jeff’s fear had overcome him and his voice raged with panic.
“We’ve got to try something, or we might not last the night!” came Doug’s response.
The hair on Scarlett’s neck rose when she heard her father’s declaration. Jeff had somehow suppressed his anxiety and replaced it with his drive for survival. “I need to get the fire going again. That will save us some more time!” There was no response from the other two, and shortly after Scarlett could hear the sound of the front door open and close as Jeff began to traverse the distance to the fire pit.
Scarlett summed up what courage she could and inched her way into the hall and down the stairs. She made her way to the dining room window where she had a clear view of Jeff tending the fire. He moved quickly, making sure he always faced east. There were several times he stopped is labor and looked in odd directions like a deer startled while grazing. Jeff took care managing the fire this time; he wanted it to last several hours. First, he made sure a nice, bright blaze was burning before he continued his work. When the pyre was strong, Jeff turned back toward the cottage. That was when he heard the crunch of something large stepping on the ground not more than 30 meters to the east. He picked up his shotgun and released a few shots in the direction of the sound. Keeping his gun aimed eastward, he began to slowly side step his way to the cottage entrance.
“I managed to speak with someone who knew English,” Doug stated as he walked toward Scarlett. “They’ll be here in a helicopter in no more than 30 minutes.” Scarlett turned her gaze away from the window to look at her father, who seemed to be breathing much easier than before.
In that brief amount of time that distracted Scarlett from the window the creature attacked. All Scarlett could hear was the blood-chilling scream she assumed belonged to Jeff and then as quickly as the scream emitted from his lungs it was cut short, replaced by a victorious, ravenous growl from the monster.
Instinctively, Scarlett looked out the window. The creature had somehow made a distraction to keep Jeff’s attention to the east while it crept around and attacked from behind. The beast had pounced on top of Jeff and pinned him to the ground. It then proceeded to tear his head off his shoulders and swallowed it whole. Scarlett gave a scream at the sight and her father leaped the distance between them, grabbing her and clamping his hand over her mouth.
It was too late; the beast had heard her. It stood in front of the fire, eclipsing itself in shadow and preventing anyone in the cottage from gaining a clear look at what it looked like.
Upon hearing Scarlett’s scream, the creature looked up in the direction of the cottage. It stared for several seconds before resuming its meal. It was only a matter of time before it would attempt to excavate the cottage for the rest of them.