The farm had been in the family for generations. My thrice great grandfather, Erik Peterson, had claimed land in the Canadian wilderness, and he set out to make a life for his family from the land. One little quirk that he had brought over from the old country was that every 6 months, on the winter or summer solstice, he would leave out an offering. Generally, it was in the form of a cow or goat. He would set it loose in the field at night on the solstice, and in the morning the animal was gone, and there was never any trace that it had been there in the first place. He always expressed the importance of doing this, so everyone that has owned the farm over the years has kept up the practice.

When I was 10 the farm was falling on hard times. A harsh winter followed by a dry summer made growing any crops extremely difficult. My father made the decision to not put out the summer sacrifice. At first nothing seemed different. My brother and I would continue with our chores without any change. About a week later, I was checking on our horses. I first noticed the deep scratches on the wall of the stable. I quickly unlatched the door and a sick scene greeted me. Stormcloud, my favorite horse, lay on the ground, with several deep cuts in her side. She was still breathing, so I ran into the stable, and tried to put pressure on the wounds, while I yelled for Steve to get Dad. Dad ran in, with his well worn yet reliable 30-30 lever action rifle. The local vet arrived within the hour, and we were able to get Storm onto the horse trailer and over to the vet’s where he stitched up her side.  However, he felt like she needed to stay with him to make sure none of the scratches got infected.

It wasn’t until we were almost back home that I remember that I didn’t see Sandking, our other horse anywhere. Dad turned pale when I told him this. As soon as we got home he made me go inside, and tell mom to lock all the windows and the doors, and to not open them until he came back inside. I did as I was told, and when dad came back in later that night, I asked him if he found Sandking. Dad told us that whatever attacked Stormcloud must have caused Sand to run away. As it was getting on 10 pm, dad told me to get to bed. With a deep sadness in my chest I walked up the stairs and walked to the end of the hall where my room is and opened the door. Seeing as we don’t have air conditioning, my room got stuffy with the window closed and locked. I was about to open the window, when I heard my dad yell up to make sure I kept the window locked. I crawled into bed and slowly drifted off into sleep. . .

I was running through the woods, calling out to Sandking, trying to find him. I heard loud baying and snorting to my left off in the distance. I turned and ran, almost slipping on the edge of a small ravine. I stopped for a moment to catch my breath and allow my heart to slow down a little. I leaned up against a gnarled tree trunk, and heard an unearthly rumble, almost as if the very earth was growling at me. With my heart thrumming through my entire body, I stepped closer to the ravine. There, at the bottom was Sandking, or rather, what was left of him, and I promptly threw up. His back half was shredded, as if somebody tried amputating his legs with a chainsaw while they were drunk. His front half was fine up until his head. It looked like there was nothing there, save for his skin. It looked as if his skull was removed, yet his skin stayed intact. A bright flash illuminated the sky. . .

The loudest clap of thunder I had ever heard rattled my almost out of the frame. I heard a loud shatter outside of my room. I jumped up to check what it was, and as I opened the door, I heard my father running up the stairs. He asked me if something in my room broke, and I told him that it wasn’t in my room. He quickly walked past me and opened the door to my brother’s room. The first thing we noticed was his bedside lamp laying in a pile of shattered pottery at the foot of his nightstand. My father ran inside the room and slammed his window shut. Figuring that the wind must have knocked down the lamp, dad walked over and rubbed my brother’s forehead. He walked out and shut the door. He told me to get to bed, and went down the stairs again. I turned back into my room, and crawled back into bed. I fell asleep with the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

In the morning, I was getting ready to head out for my chores, but my dad told me to wait for my brother, and to take the gun with me. I sat down and waited for several minutes, but he didn’t come down. I got tired of waiting, so I went upstairs to get him. I didn’t hear anything from inside his room, so I opened up his door. I could just make out him lying there in the bed, but as it was only 5 in the morning, there wasn’t much light. I reached over and flipped the light switch. My lungs got caught in my throat. Laying there on the bed, in a large pool of blood, lay what was left of my brother. His right leg was missing, and his left was split open, with much of the calf muscle missing. His femur was cracked in two lengthwise, and it looked as if the marrow had been sucked out. His chest was torn open and it his heart was bitten in half, and his intestines were resting on the bed like a massive plate of pasta. I looked towards his head, and saw his peaceful smile, as if he were still dreaming. I yelled for dad, and then promptly passed out on the floor.

The funeral was held a few days later. The local police launched an investigation, but no leads were found, even after After the death of my brother, nothing else happened that was out of the ordinary. The air cooled, and the seasons once again began their shifting. As the winter solstice approached, my father sent me and my mother, whom at the time was still appearing to be under the impression that my brother’s death was her fault, of to visit my grandparents.  

We planned on staying until the end of the winter holidays. This year’s harvest had been pretty successful, so my father had put out an older bull, who had passed the age of being good for breeding out.  He then came over to join my mother and I.

When we returned, it was the same as when we left. After that summer, my father never went another solstice, without putting out an offering. Years passed and I went off and joined the military, ending up taking part of Operation Medak Pocket. After my service, I met up with Charlotte, who would become my wife three years later. My first child, a boy by the name of Ryan, was born in early June. My father died of a heart attack soon after, and my mother was paralyzed from a stroke less than a week after his funeral. Since I was the last living child it was up to me to return to the farm and keep it in the family. A week after the stroke, once my mother was placed into a long-term care facility, Charlotte and I moved in.

The move coincided with the summer solstice, and by sheer chance I forgot about the offering and I didn’t place one out. I didn’t even remember until two days after the solstice, when I went to feed the chickens, and I found eerily similar claw marks. The realization that I forgot the offering struck me as if Thor himself swung the mighty Mjolnir into my chest. I quickly ran inside and stormed into the master bedroom, where Charlotte was feeding Ryan. I grabbed a suitcase and filled it with clothing. Charlotte asked what the problem was, but I was too frightened to explain properly. The only words I was able to spit out were brother and solstice. I saw the blood drain from her face as she understood what exactly had happened, and why I was acting delirious. We ran to the truck and I told Charlotte to get to her parents house as quickly as possible. I decided that this time would be the last time that the creature bothered the farm ever again.

I grabbed the old rifle, still in great shape, thanks to my father’s excellent and meticulous cleaning done every week. I strapped to my hip a knife, which had been made by Erik and had been passed down to each son that had stayed with the farm. Lastly, I grabbed my cigars and a bottle of scotch that had been in the pantry and went outside to sit on the back patio. I sat down and lit a cigar and took a swig of the scotch, then stared up at the stars, wondering if I would ever see Charlotte or Ryan again. I don’t know how long I had sat there, but at some point I must’ve fallen asleep.

One of the deepest rumbles I had ever heard shattered my dream worlds and sucked me back into reality. With just the moon and starlight, I couldn’t see very well what had awoken me, but you didn’t need to see it to know it was there. Its presence would be enough to cause to instill a true sense of fear deep into your very being. The kind of fear where you can’t even remember how to breathe, let alone run or fight. It is the very fear a mouse feels when a snake is about to strike. This was a predator, and I was his prey.

Going through my mind for those few brief moments of the standstill, amidst the growling of the creature, was the thought of “I’m going to die”. Again and again, it repeated itself through my mind. I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to die. I felt it step closer and I thought about what I would miss most in my life.  That is when my mind brought forth the image of Charlotte and Ryan, stuck here by themselves with this creature lurking in wait at the shadows. The thought of my son growing up fatherless overpowered the fear, and I grabbed the half-full bottle and twisted around, throwing it at where I believed the creature to be. I heard the bottle shatter, and a shriek of pain followed closely behind. I twisted back around and grabbed the rifle, and then ran a good distance away.

When I turned around all I could see was a figure that looked vaguely like a man, wearing a thick fur coat. Except, that is, the long claws glinting in the moonlight at the end of each finger. Its hands were covering its face, primarily where its nose should be, which seemed kind of smart considering half of a bottle of strong scotch was just thrown on it. When it lowered it’s hands, I could just make out a long snout, more like a dog or bears’ face instead of a human’s.

It caught sight of me, and started charging towards me, and I started unloading shell after shell into it.  When the gun ran out of ammo, instead of taking the time to reload, I dropped the rifle and drew the knife. Taking 6 30-30 shells knocked the creature back, and it was struggling to stay standing. With adrenaline pumping through my body, I charged at the creature, and dodging its swinging claws, and sunk the 5 inch knife blade deep into the creature’s heart. I tumbled back and I pulled the blade free. By the time its body hit the dirt, the creature was no more.

I stepped back, and felt the euphoria of having escaped death, and I hate to admit it, but I was giggling with happiness, after finally avenging my brother. I walked over to the house and turned on the yard lights, so I could get a good look at what exactly the creature was. As I walked back over, I grabbed out my good Cuban cigar and lit it, inhaling the tangy taste of true victory. I grabbed the rifle and reloaded it, and when I got back to the creature I put all 6 rounds right into its forehead.

After that, I checked it out to see what it was, and to this day I still don’t know. It was about 7 feet tall, and covered with a thick brown fur. The claws on its hands and feet were each about 2 inches long. Its face did indeed look like it should have been on a bear instead of a human. I still smelled the stench of the booze, and it gave me an idea. I reached around, and I found a small twig. I grabbed out my lighter and I lit the the twig on fire and dropped it on the beast. As its body flared up, I turned back to the house to call Charlotte and tell her that it has finally come to an end.

Written by Elemental Phoenix
Content is available under CC BY-SA