The stars were bright in the cloudless sky, but the car’s headlights provided the most illumination as it drove down the road. A man and a woman drove together, hand in hand, and smiled at the night outside their bubble of life. The road was bordered by tall, old trees, and it had been hours since the couple had seen any sign of civilization. The isolation was broken as a sign appeared in the distance, lit by the car’s headlights. In the passenger seat, the woman looked at it, then rubbed her eye. “’Welcome to Irving’.” She said. “I didn’t know there was a town out here.”
In the driver’s seat, the man shrugged. “I didn’t either, but I’ve never taken this route before.” He paused, and glanced to the car’s left. “What’s tha-”
The car shook something hit the car. The rear tires lifted off the ground as the car came to an immediate stop, and, inside the cab, the airbags fired. The bumper crumpled and both headlights exploded, and the car’s frame bent and twisted. The rear of the vehicle rose into the air, but it didn’t come back down. Instead, the couple screamed as the car, caught in the air, swung to one side and was then thrown into the woods.
The vehicle spun and twisted in all directions, as though thrown from the road by giant arms, and crashed through trees as it carved a path of destruction. At last the car slowed, then came to a stop on the passenger side. The couple, bloodied and beaten, stopped screaming, but their panting breaths quickened as the car settled back toward its wheels, then fell, hard, to land upright.
Tears streamed down the woman’s face as she looked at the man. “What happened?”
Blood poured from a cut across the man’s brow, but he wiped it away as he tried to catch his breath. “I don’t know.” He said in a pained voice. “Are you OK? Are you-”
A howl, like a pack of hungry beasts with once voice, cried out from the darkness, and the man’s words were cut short. The couple stared into the darkness, toward the road, and their shock turned to terror. They sat in for a moment, but when the howling ended, the silence lasted only an instant before it was broken by the sound of a tree as it fell in the distance.
“That way, go!” The man said, and pointed out the passenger side door. The couple fought with their seat belts for a moment but, once free, the doors were too twisted and damaged to open. The windows were a spiderwebs of shattered glass, but only the passenger glass was gone. The woman crawled through first to fall on the decaying leaves of the forest floor, but she moved out of the way just as the man followed. They tried to stand, but the woman’s leg buckled as she put weight on an injured ankle.
The man put an arm around her and held her upright, and the two took in their surroundings through a fog of pain and shock. They found themselves in the woods, surrounded by trees and a damaged car, alone in total darkness. Behind them, they heard the sound of something, large and terrifying, as it lumbered toward them. All else was emptiness, and soon desperation joined fear.
The woman searched around them again, and spotted a light in the distance just as the hood of the car buckled under some terrible weight. “There!” The woman said, but the man didn’t respond. She turned, and sensed more than saw what had captured his attention. Something stood in front of their car, one enormous foot on the hood. It was large, but in the shadows that enveloped it, details were impossible. The couple heard its breath above their heads, and as they turned toward it, two bright green points appeared. They saw its eyes, and it saw them.
The thing roared, and the couple froze. They shook as the thing lifted its foot off the destroyed hood of the car. The man shook with fear, and the woman cried, both unable to move as the thing took a step toward them. They could feel it move, but could see nothing but its bright, terrible eyes. The ground shook, the air went cold, but still the couple couldn’t move.
As the thing neared, it was the car that saved them. The damaged car’s horn began to blare in rhythm with what few lights survived, and the car’s security system sounded the alarm. The couple were shaken, and turned from the thing in the woods just as it turned toward the car and answered the damaged machine’s cry. It attacked, and as fists hammered and claws carved over and through the car’s body, the couple plunged into the darkness around them toward the only point of light in the distance.
The couple ran through the woods, bleeding and bruised, as best they could with the woman’s injured leg. Over roots, branches, and obstacles they couldn’t see, the sounds of the thing as it attacked their damaged car spurred them on. As they ran, the light ahead grew brighter, and, through the trees, they soon saw the outline of a house. Alone in a clearing in the woods, the two-story house was surrounded by a neglected lawn, with a rusted swing set and a disused tree house in the yard. A portch light was lit, and light shone through the bottom floor windows. The woman tripped on a root as they stepped into the clearing, but the man pulled her back up and half carried her to the house’s front porch.
“Hurry!” The woman said as they stopped outside a door. The man began to pound on the door as the woman yelled. “Please! Let us in!”
The man continued to knock, but as he did, he peered through a small, frosted window beside it. “I think the place is empty! The lights are on, but no one’s home!”
“Try the handle!” The woman said.
As he reached for the door handle, both the man and woman noticed that the distant sounds of destruction had ended. They both turned and, over their shoulders, peered into the shadows of the forest. They saw nothing, at first, but after a second, the nothing contained the form of something, something large and horrifying. Just inside the shadows, it crouched, its bright, malevolent eyes locked on the couples. Its growl crossed the lawn, but was replaced with a grunt as something was tossed into the air. The man opened the door and pushed the woman through just as the crushed engine of their former car crashed into the stairs at the edge of the porch.
The door closed behind them, and inside the stillness of the house, the only sound the couple heard was their own breathing and the thing as it stalked across the yard. The man locked the door and rested against it. After a second, when nothing happened, the man relaxed. With the tension broken, the woman slid to the floor and began to cry, “What do we do?” She asked. “What is going on?”
“I don’t know.” He said. “Whatever that thing is, it’s not coming inside. We might be safe here. And the lights are on, so there’s power. Let’s try to find a phone.”
The woman nodded. She reached into her pocket as the man helped her to her feet. She pulled out a cell phone, but her tears worsened when she saw the cracked screen. She pressed the power button, but when nothing happened, she tossed it aside and wiped her eyes. “OK, you’re right. I’m sorry. I’m OK.”
“No you’re not.” The man said. “Neither am I, but we’ll get out of this. I promise.”
With a nod, the couple examined the house. They found themselves at the foot of a staircase that lead to the top floor, the wall to one side decorated with framed pictures that trailed up the stairs. A short hall ran beside the stairs, with two doors that led further into the house. The woman opened the closest door, slowly, and peered inside while the man took a second to examine the photos on the wall. The pictures showed a family of five, taken in various locations, as they went on camping trips, vacations, and visits to a nearby town. A husband, wife, and three boys, the family looked happy in each of them.
Inside the house’s illusion of safety, the man relaxed, but a scream broke the silence, and the fear returned. He charged through the door into a living room, with a couch and several chairs centered on an old, tube-style television beside a fireplace. The room was large, with a dining area beyond the living space, and a kitchen beside that. The man scanned the room and found the woman. She leaned against the fireplace and stared at the couch, and as her scream ended, she began to weep. The man followed her gaze and stared at the couch, and as he did, he cried out and stumbled back.
Seated on the couch were two desiccated, long dead corpses, both in a perfectly natural sitting position. One was dressed in a rotted work shirt and a pair of worn pair of overalls. The other as covered in a frayed dress, and its bright yellow, red, and purple flower pattern stood in stark contrast against its gray, lifeless skin. The corpses eyes were empty, and their black sockets stared at the couple in accusation. Their jaws hung slack in a silent scream, the only sign of distress on the relaxed bodies.
The woman began to panic as she stared at the corpses, but the hair on the back of the man’s neck stood on end. He took a breath, and that was when he heard the growl. With another leap, the man whirled and stared out the window behind him. Outside, just visible in the light that escaped the house, the man saw eyes, the bright green eyes of the thing in the woods, but, below those, he also saw a large mouth full of long, sharp teeth. The man shook as the mouth snarled at them.
“Run!” The man said. The woman was shaken from her panic, but the man crossed the living room, put an arm under her shoulder, and dragged her away from the window. They rushed out of the living room and into the dining area, but as they moved, the house echoed with the sound of heavy, determined feet that followed them along the porch outside.
The couple stopped in the dining room and searched. “There’s a door!” The woman said, and pointed to a door that led out of the house. The man examined it, but as he did, something began to paw and scratch at it, from the outside.
The man shook his head, and fought back his fear. “We’re trapped in here.” The woman began to weep again, and the man tightened his grip on her as he searched the space again. The kitchen was standard, as though plucked from old photographs, with a large sink, cabinets, and a gas oven and stove. In the end, it was her who found the two doors. One, open, led into a pantry, though, even from a distance, it was clear that whatever food had been in there had rotted away long ago. The woman, unable to speak, pointed to the other door, which was closed.
With no other options, the couple moved to it. The man pulled it open with his free hand. Inside, lit by a single bulb, was a stair case that led down to another door. The couple laughed, a senseless, irrational sound that echoed back from the stairs. “It’s a basement!” The woman said. “Can we hide down there?”
Outside, the thing from the woods roared. The man looked over his shoulder in time to see the eyes glare at them. “Do we have any other choice?” The man asked.
Before the woman could speak, the man led her down the stairs. Despite her injured ankle, the couple made their way down the stairs quickly. At the bottom, they found another door, and the man opened it. The couple rushed through then closed it behind them. There was a heavy deadbolt in the door, designed to lock from inside the basement, and the man took a moment to lock the door. As the bolt slid into place, the woman let out a relieved cry and settled against the wall.
Again, the lights were on in the basement, and the couple took a moment to take in their surroundings. The space was smaller than the house above, but large enough that the single light bulb overhead didn’t completely dispel the darkness. A water heater rested atop a wooden platform in one corner beside a large, antique furnace. Shelves and boxes lay throughout the space, without any visible organization, and their piles stretched off beyond visibility. Brooms and other cleaning tools rested against the wall, but after their brief search, it was the small bed against the outer wall that caught their attention.
The woman put a hand over her mouth as the man crossed the basement. A form lay on the bed, covered by a blanket, still as a statue, and the man’s hands shook as he neared it. With a shuddering breath, the man pulled the blanket back, then stepped back with a sorrowful groan.
A body lay on the bed, dressed in a colorful shirt and dirty denim shorts. The body was as desiccated and preserved as the ones upstairs, but this one was different. The body’s throat had been cut, and the shirt lay in a way that indicated that it’s chest had been opened and hollowed. Despite the horrors visited upon this small body, a smile covered the face, a smile that was only possible in someone as innocent as this young boy appeared to have been in life.
The man dropped the blanket. “What is this?” He asked, but the woman couldn’t answer through her weeping gasps. “We need-”
Again, the man was cut short, this time by the sound of old, rusted hinges in the darkness. The couple turned and, across the basement, saw the vague, shadowed outline of a set of stairs that led up to a storm door. The woman screamed as the second door opened and a large, heavy form began to crawl into the basement.
The man wasted no time. “Run!” He said, and reached for a heavy broom handle that rested against the wall. He stepped toward the thing as the woman turned and tried to open the door. “Get back! Leave us alone!”
A roar, loud and monstrous, burst from the shadow and echoed throughout the basement. The man stepped back, but not down, and began to shake. The woman fought the door’s locks in a weeping panic, and her own scream was weak against the thing’s cry of rage. The roar lasted an eternal second, but when it ended, the basement fell silent and the thing stepped into the light.
It was giant, so tall that it had to crawl on all fours just to move through the basement. Its entire body was covered by coarse, dark fur, it was the perfect, terrible mixture of wolf and human. Its arms ended in vicious, clawed hands but it’s back legs were canine in shape. Its long snout snarled at the man to reveal wolf’s fangs, but its eyes were discerning and rancorous, bright with a nightmarish intelligence.
The man panted. “Get-”
The beast lashed out, and its jaw closed around the man’s neck. It shook, with the man between its teeth, and though the thing growled, a loud, sickening snap echoed over everything else. After a few seconds, the beast tossed the man’s limp form aside, roared at it, then turned toward the woman. The woman stared at the man’s body, bloodied and broken, in a heap, and terror took over.
Hopeless, the woman screamed, and though it echoed through the basement, she still heard the beast. An enraged growl rumbled in its chest as it began its slow approach toward her, and she pushed into the locked door behind her in a desperate attempt to escape. The creature ignored her cries. It advanced, and, as it did, put itself between her and the bed. As it stepped further into the light, she saw it more clearly. It’s fur was matted with blood and dirt, but, under that, she saw scars that covered its skin. It’s jaw was stained red, but, in its eyes, she saw an intelligent hate. Her screams died to whimpers and breathless weeping, but, as the beast neared, she heard it’s panting growls more closely.
Then, finally, she felt its teeth.