No Safe Haven

“What was that thing?” Becca asked, her breathlessness preventing the sobs she knew were coming.

“Who cares? We need to get out of here, now.” Grant pulled at her elbow and before she knew it her legs were flying beneath her as she swatted away brambles and damp leafy branches in the sickly light of the low-hanging moon, the color drained from its face. A manic wind batted at her hair while it cloaked her in a moist warmth like the stink of animal breath. Something amber shivered through the swaying brush ahead.

A torch. They were coming to the boathouse.

They erupted from the dense tree line into the clearing, and she suddenly felt exposed. Her knees drew together as something within her shrank.

“Maybe we should wait,” she said, but Grant was already moving. He withdrew a revolver from his waistband and checked the cylinder as he limped along. One pantleg looked darker than the other. Becca checked her elbow and found it thick with sticky blood where his hand had been.

“Grant,” she tried again, “maybe we should—”

A howl from the wood opposite the boathouse ripped a gaping wound through the night air. Becca tasted bile high in her throat and made a sickening croak as she forced it back into the churning stomach that had nearly evicted it.

Grant emerged on the dock and waived in the struggling light. “Becca, come on! It’s clear.”

Over one long, sustained moan, she crossed the clearing, passed through the torch light into the heaving darkness of the boathouse, and arrived on the dock to find Grant at the rowboat, having already released it from its moorings. Spatter from his slashed leg left crimson constellations beneath the moon.

A hungry fog suffocated the still air over the lifeless lake. Grant lowered her into the boat, wincing under the strain but not failing. He turned himself round to join her when they heard that horrible screeching again, this time closer. “I’m going to get the torch,” he said, and skittered off down the dock before Becca could vocalize her protest. He disappeared into the boathouse, and the night held its breath.

A tumbling of wood and steel and glass, and then twin screams; first Grant’s, and then, that…thing’s. There were gunshots—she didn’t know how many—and there was a sound like a phonebook being ripped in half.

Becca tipped onto her back and kicked the rowboat off the dock with both legs. The water didn’t put up a fight and she flailed the oars through flat water like tiny scalpels on the skin of some great beast.

Soon she was deep enough into the fog that she could no longer make or the dock—or anything else. She was a lonely island in a wet, heavy void. She heard the unearthly grinding and slapping sounds still coming from the boathouse, and knew at some level that the agonized gurgling must somehow be coming from Grant, not yet dead, and perhaps not soon to be. The lone, fuzzy amber point in the haze extinguished, and she paddled away, finally sobbing in absolute silence.

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