Into the Hollow

Page 26


The three of us retired to the living room after dinner – and by that, I mean we moved a couple of feet and plunked ourselves down, me on the rug, face to the fire, and Dex and Mitch on the armchairs. Mitch had finished off the old bottle of bourbon and had brought out another, albeit cheaper, version. This time Dex and I did partake in a glass each, both of which Dex iced with a clump of fresh snow. It was delicious and though I was keeping myself in check, I was grateful for the simple act of drinking. It gave us something to do instead of just staring at each other, and despite being sluggish from the heavy meal, I knew it would be quite a while before I was ready for bed. My mind was racing and that vague threat of the beast – or someone pretending to be the beast – was sitting at the back of my head.
I had taken my last sip of bourbon and was debating whether I should ask Mitch for another or not when the dim cabin was suddenly aglow with a blinding bright light.
“The motion detectors,” Dex announced excitedly, quickly getting out of the chair and heading to the windows. Mitch did the same, while I rolled over and scooped the camera off of the table.
Even with a heavy sweater on, I could feel my hairs standing straight up on my arms. I was scared of being scared, as stupid as that sounded, and made sure I was right beside Dex, my shoulder rubbing against his.
“Turn it on,” he hissed at me, not taking his eyes off of the scene outside.
I did as he said and kept the camera focused out the window. I held it still while my own eyes came off the viewfinder and scanned the scene. There was nothing outside that I could see. It had stopped snowing for the moment and the trees were still. We all stared until the fog from inside steamed up the glass and no amount of rubbing would clear the view.
Mitch slipped on his boots and a jacket and picked up his shotgun that was resting behind the door.
“Let me check this out,” he barked, the crazy excitement showing in his eyes. He opened the door and bolted out into the night. I gave Dex the camera while I quickly got dressed for the elements and soon we were outside too, our boots making no noise on the fresh powder. It was colder than normal and when I looked up to the sky I saw only a few thick clouds hanging lazily near the moon. Everything was still and I couldn’t hear much except the beating of my heart and Dex’s ragged breath beside me, the air freezing in thin clouds near his face.
Everything was illuminated by the cold lights, bathing us in an otherworldly blue glow. Dex’s face took on a sickly pallor against his dark hair and eyes.
“You still filming?” he whispered as he searched the darkness beyond the light.
“Yes sir,” I answered, though I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be filming. What had tripped the lights?
“Maybe we should go check on the llamas?” Dex asked.
He cocked a brow at me. “Because we’d look like quite the idiots if we’re freaking out because Twatwaffle got loose.”
Fair enough. Still, I wanted to know where Mitch went.
“Mitch?” I called out softly. I didn’t want to yell and attract attention to myself, even though it was pretty obvious that if there was something out there, it knew about us. It could have easily been watching us from the trees and we wouldn’t have a clue. I hoped to God I wouldn’t see glints of red in the darkness.
Dex tugged at my arm. “Come on. I’m sure he’s finding something new to kill.”
“I just hope it’s not us,” I said under my breath but I let Dex lead me around the other side of the cabin toward the corral where the llamas were kept.
We were halfway between the cabin and the pen, amongst a border of low bushes, when we were suddenly engulfed in darkness. The motion detectors went out and the cloud had settled over the moon.
“Shit,” Dex swore. “I knew I should have brought a flashlight.”
I turned and looked back at the cabin. The light from inside was barely visible, this side of the cabin having no windows.
I chewed on my cold lip, feeling the moisture evaporate in the dry air.
“Do you have that light for the camera?” I asked.
“Inside,” he said with sigh. “Well, fuck, let’s just run back and-“
He was cut off by a blood-curdling scream. I don’t use that phrase lightly. That scream was inhuman and made my insides shrink in terror.
“This isn’t good,” Dex said quickly and I felt his arm go around my waist, holding me against him. I appreciated it but it didn’t make me feel any less terrified.
“What was that?” I squeaked. “Was that…Mitch?”
“Kiddo, I don’t even think it was human.”
Another scream punctuated the end of that sentence, followed by a few drooling rasps and growls. I pressed myself harder against Dex as the growling continued. It sounded like a pack of lions feasting on something. No, this wasn’t good. This was a nightmare. And we were far, far from home.
A shotgun blast suddenly ripped through the air, making us both jump where we were standing. It sounded from the other side of the cabin and was followed by a “Jesus Christ.”
It was Mitch. Dex grabbed my hand and began running toward the cabin. I kept the camera on though it was capturing nothing but our legs as we scampered through billows of soft snow.
When we came around the corner and were able to see a bit from the firelight of the cabin windows, we saw Mitch’s silhouette near the outhouse. The motion detector lights hadn’t come back on despite the commotion, which made me wonder if they were even working anymore.
“Mitch!” Dex yelled and we walked toward him cautiously. After all, he had just fired off a shotgun and we didn’t want to surprise him.
As we got closer we could see a tiny light bobbing up and down, then fix its focus on us, blinding us for a second.
“It’s us, lay off,” I said through a shaking breath. Mitch lowered the flashlight so it was illuminating the ground again.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he replied blankly.
As we got closer, the color red jumped into my vision. The ground near Mitch’s feet was smeared in it. My heartbeat intensified in my throat and I felt unsteady all over. Dex squeezed my hand again for comfort as we stopped just a couple of feet away.
At Mitch’s feet lay a pool of spreading blood, an ugly dark blot on the pristine whiteness. In the middle of that dark, bloody smudge was a llama’s head. One of them had been decapitated, and cleanly from the look of it.
Not that I was looking long. Upon the realization of what it was, and that this was all real, I turned away and buried my head into the crook of Dex’s arm. With stealth, he simultaneously hugged me and got the camera out of my hand.
“Twatwaffle?” Dex asked.
I felt a wad of disgust come up my throat. “His name was Apricot,” I sneered into his sleeve.
“Or Jackass,” Mitch offered, sounding faintly amused. “What a way to go.”
I still didn’t dare look, so I kept my head buried in Dex’s coat while they talked.
“How does…” Dex began. I felt his muscles tensing. “How does this happen?”
“I don’t know. I heard him scream, so I ran back out of the woods and saw something bending over him ripping him to shreds.”
I shuddered and Dex held me closer, though I knew he was trying to film at the same time.
“You were in the woods?”
“I heard something growling, I thought it was a black bear.”
“You keep saying bears, but don’t bears hibernate?”
“Not for as long as you’d think. Anyway, I didn’t get far before this sorry bastard started hollering. I saw the thing and I shot at it.”
“You didn’t get a better look at it?”
“I saw the thing and I shot at it,” Mitch repeated, his patience being tested. “I didn’t have time to figure out what it was.”
“Well, shit.”
A silence filled the air and I lifted my head up out of Dex’s arm to get fresh air. I kept my eyes facing toward the cabin. Besides, someone had to watch our backs.
“Where is the rest of the llama?” I asked. “What kind of animal decapitates another animal?”
“Beats me,” said Mitch. “Heads are usually eaten. There’s a trail though, all blood, leading right down the slope. I know where Rigby says it would go.”
“Into the hollow?” Dex asked.
“That’s right.”
“Is that what you believe?”
I heard Mitch grunt. “I believe something big and bad lives out there. I don’t believe it’s Rigby’s beast or Sasquatch but it’s something I want stuffed and mounted in my house.”
“Are we going to be safe tonight?” I questioned into the night air, my nerves still on fire.
“I scared the thing off, didn’t I?” Mitch challenged behind me.
“Technically you meant to shoot it, not scare it,” Dex pointed out. “And you missed by the likes of it.”
Oh God Dex, don’t piss off the man with the shotgun, I thought.
“You try shooting in the dark, you punk,” was Mitch’s response. I felt him push past us and watched as he stormed his way back to the cabin.
I pulled away and looked up at Dex, who was now lapsed back into darkness. “Way to go, dumbass.”
He shrugged. “What? He was acting like he was doing us a favor.”
“Well he kinda fucking did. Dex, your llama’s head is on the ground.”
“I feel kind of bad for calling him Twatwaffle now.”
“You should feel bad,” I yelled. “For all we know, Twatwaffle saved our lives and maybe Mitch did too. There’s obviously something out here. Who the fuck decapitates a llama?”
“I’m sure this particular llama was on many a hit list.”
I jabbed him sharply with my elbow, so much so that he almost stumbled back onto the bloody area near the head.
“Whoa easy, kiddo,” he said. “I’m just joking.”
“You’re not taking this seriously enough!”
He came up to me, lowering his head until his face was inches from mine. I could barely make out the gleam of the cabin light in his eyes. “I told you we’d look at this rationally first, before we start freaking out.”
“Your idea of rational is thinking Christina and Rigby are behind this,” I whispered harshly. “And if you think it’s not even remotely frightening that they’d go so far as to rip the head of their own precious llama, then you’ve got a screw loose.”
“I have no screws loose,” he shot back in anger. I could feel him tense up, on the defensive.
“Oh we both have screws loose. Just fucking look at us, Dex! We’re in the mountains trying to find Sasquatch and we’re arguing over the llama formally known as Twatwaffle.”
He sucked in his breath and looked down at the grainy shape that was the llama’s head in the darkness. “All right, all right. So I don’t have a fucking clue what’s going on.”
I coiled my gloved fingers around his coat sleeve and pulled him toward me. “Neither do I. So then what do we do?”