Once again, Eric travels into the icy wasteland. He begins his journey, a vast plane of white lies before him. He’s made this journey annually for around thirty years now. It’s done more out of necessity than anything else. Spending his Christmas trekking through thousands of miles of snow is not his ideal vacation. This journey was his birthright. He was born to make it and he will most likely die making it. As long as he can remember, he’s been told he was born to do great things, mostly by his father.
Eric remembers his father as a stern and stoic man. His father was a man of few words. He had always believed that only those who had nothing to say talked longer than necessary. A man who has anything to say tries to keep his observations brief and to the point. Since he was a child, his father had been absent on Christmas day. Christmas was mostly celebrated with his mother’s side of the family, the only side of the family that Eric knew. Most of his father’s side of the family was either dead or in hiding, for good reason too. There is one Christmas that Eric will always remember. When Eric was a young man, returned from a long tour of duty in the military, his father sat him down and told him the truth about himself. This had been the longest conversation that he ever had with his father. His father told him the truth about the beast.
I know this will be hard for you to understand—I mean, hell, I still can’t believe it myself—but our family has been keeping a secret for hundreds of years now. It started with your great, great, great grandfather. His name was Alexandr. I don’t know much about the man before he came to Alaska, the only thing I really know about him was that he was born somewhere in Vladivostok. Most of what I know about him comes from his journal, which has been passed down in our family for generations. He came to Alaska and ended up in charge of a group of settlers there. The group traveled farther north looking for somewhere to settle. The winters were hell, but they managed to survive. After a few months, their numbers began to dwindle. Their supplies were scarce. If they were to survive the winter they needed more food. Alexandr gathered all the men of the settlement and set out to hunt.
Along the way they found some game, but not enough to survive on. They kept hunting, hoping they could find something to keep themselves and their family alive. After a while, the men began to grow weak and tired. In the middle of the night, about half of the hunters had left the camp. They had taken what little food they had left with them. The tundra started getting to the rest of the men. Some of them would wake in the middle of the night, screaming as if they’d seen a ghost. One night they heard more screaming, but when they got up they realized that it wasn’t them. They followed the direction of the screaming until they ended up at a cave. I’ll… try to spare the gruesome details, but they found the deserters dead.
When they got there, it was dead silent. The only thing they could hear was the howl of the wind. That is until they heard the screaming again. This time it was coming from inside the cave. The men went deeper into the cave, hoping to find some sign that any of them were alive. Sure, they had abandoned them, but they were family. They were friends, people they’d known for years. Alexandr couldn’t just leave them to die. Inside those dark caves they found something. They found something that’s haunted our family for generations. I don’t know what it is. I have no idea why it does what it does, but I know one thing for sure. I know that if that thing is left unchecked, we’d all be dead. There’s never been a formal name for it. My father called it the beast.
The journey continues. His bones ache and the cold is becoming unbearable. Just a little while longer, he thought. He needs to do something to pass the time. If the cold doesn’t kill him, the boredom will. Eric thinks about his what’s to come. He stops for a moment to rest. The chill of the winter air stings his nostrils. Eric reaches behind him and grabs his bag. He opens it up and pulls out a locked wooden box. Eric reaches into his pocket and pulled out the key, then inserts it into the keyhole. Inside the box, there’s something wrapped in purple cloth. He unwraps it, revealing the icy dagger inside. He wraped his fingers around the handle. The blade shimmers in the sunlight. This was his inheritance. This was his birthright. He thinks back to his father’s words on that fateful night.
They went deeper into the cave. Alexandr eventually found what was left of their supplies, completely untouched. He thought that the men must have come here to get away from the blizzard. Deeper in the cave they went. The stench coming from deep within the cave was becoming more pronounced. The screaming had stopped a while ago. The only sound now was the sound of snow being crushed under their boots. The men finally stopped at the body of one of the deserters. From the looks of it, he was recently dead. The face was butchered beyond recognition.
They found a knife on his body. They had no clue what it was made of, but as far as they knew, nobody from their settlement owned this blade. There was another trail of blood near the remains, but no body. It looked like it went further into the cave. The men started to question if this was a good idea. Alexandr reassured them that it must be a wolf of bear looking for food. Either way, potentially it would serve as a good meal. The men hadn’t eaten in days. The supplies that they found at the entrance of the cave weren’t enough to survive on. This was their only hope of survival. Ironically, the only way for them to survive was to put themselves in danger.
Eric tried to think about what was waiting for him back home. Missing Christmas was hard enough. Being away from Sharon was much worse. There was something about that woman that had always made him happy when he was around her. It was almost like she radiated this infectious kind of joy that always made him smile. She isn’t without faults, none of us are, but she just makes everything worthwhile. They’ve been married for about five years now. He still remembers the look on her face when he proposed to her. Sadly, his father didn’t attend his wedding. Eric’s father was dying. He remembers that as the year he took up his father’s mantle and started the great hunt. It was a hunt for the beast. His father’s words came to him once again, like he was really there. The words came to him from a man long dead.
The deeper they went, the worse things got. Bones were littered along the twisting caverns. There was something in this cave that didn’t want them there. Some of the bones were shattered like glass. They thought this had to be a bear; nothing else could have done this. Nothing is strong enough to have done this. They were wrong. The men heard rumbling from deeper in the cave. They’d come too far. It knew they were there now. Bullets did nothing to it. Nothing could pierce the beasts’ thick hide. Eventually all his crew was dead and he was out of bullets. The beast came lumbering towards him, ready to kill Alexandr. In desperation, he stabbed it with the blade he found at the entrance of the cave. It worked.
The monster stumbled back, and he was able to get a glimpse of it. The beast looked almost like a man, but distorted in the worst way imaginable. It was covered from head to toe in thick white fur and had a prominent scar over its right eye. Alexandr charged at the beast, stabbing it again and again. It ended up being a tough fight, but in the end he won. The man hobbled back to the settlement with a broken leg and three broken ribs. He barely survived the night.
He eventually recovered, but it wasn’t over. The next year around Christmas, Alexandr once again woke up to screaming. He got dressed, grabbed his gun and even the knife that had saved his life all those months ago. The beast was alive. He knew it was the same beast he had killed last year. He knew it because of the scar over its right eye. The settlement was wiped out that night. Alexandr, his family, and a few others were the only ones who survived. But once again, the beast was dead. This time he was sure.
They moved to a neighboring settlement, hoping to put it behind them. But once again around Christmas the beast destroyed the settlement. Alexandr was haunted by the idea that death and destruction would follow him wherever he went. Each year, it got harder to kill. The same amount of wounds that had killed it the last year, barely bothered it the next. Alexandr decided that the only way to ensure his family and friends’ safety was to find how it had come back to life. The previous two years, he had burned it’s body, in hopes it would not come back. That year he even spread the ashes in different locations so that he could be sure it would never return. He concluded that there could only be one place where it could be.
He made the journey to the cave that year, the first journey our family has made. Sure enough, the beast was there, and once again he killed it. He trained his son to take up his mantle when he was gone, and his son did the same with his son. And now, it’s come to you. Son, this may be hard for you to understand, but… I’m dying. I’ve been diagnosed with cancer. The doctor’s telling me I only have a few years to live. I’ve tried to prepare you to take up my mantle without getting you too involved. I know my father ruined my life with his training. I wanted you to have a life, son. I wanted you to have something that I never could have: a choice. Please, I hope you can understand why I’m telling you this. Lately I’ve been growing weaker. If I make the journey this year, I won’t return. I need you to do this, Eric. This year, I need you to kill the beast.
Things haven’t been going so well for Eric lately. Unfortunately, he learned from his doctor that he’s infertile. In a family where lineage is held in such high regard, this was troubling for him. He lost his job, as well. It was supposedly about the company needing better assets or something along those lines. He doesn’t hate his boss or the company; it’s just that these trips to Alaska each year don’t pay for themselves. This year he even had to take out a loan to make the trip. He doesn’t want to bring a child into his life in such a dark time, so adoption is out of the question for the moment. The thing that’s troubling him the most is the idea that he’ll leave this world without a successor. Last year he almost died.
The beast was too strong for him. He remembers the metallic taste of blood pooling in his mouth. He remembers the searing pain of his broken wrist. He even remembers the concussed haze he was in for the remainder of the fight. He barely made it out of there alive. His wounds have healed, but Eric is not so sure of himself. Eric stopped and dropped his bag. He was at the cave. At the entrance of the cave, there was a stick that he had left from the previous year.
Eric grabbed the sick and some duck tape from his bag. He then proceeded to wrap the duck tape around the hilt of the knife, making a makeshift spear. He also pulled something else from his bag: C4. It was hard to get, but he needed a back up plan in case he failed. He got it from a one of his war buddies. When his friend asked him why he needed it, Eric grinned and simply said that he was going hunting. He placed the C4 near the entrance of the cave. His plan was to seal them both inside if the beast got the other hand. He knew that it might not stop the monster, but it was worth a shot.
The nerves were starting to get to him again. The first year he made the journey he stood in front of the cave, not moving for almost twenty minutes. He wasn’t a cowards, it’s just that only an idiot wouldn’t be afraid of this thing. He’s had to wake up every morning in a cold sweat, remembering that thing’s face, as it was getting ready to maul him to death. Eric took a deep breath and grasped his spear. Walking into the cave, he began to pass the bones. He never got used to the sight of them.
The lonesome path in front of him almost called to him. It beckoned him deeper into the cave. He didn’t want to go deeper. He thought of everything that was waiting for him back home, but it was his duty. He was torn between two things. He wanted to pass the quest onto someone else, make it someone else’s burden to bear. He just wanted a normal life, a quiet life. His family had warned him about the repercussions of telling anyone about his trips. They couldn’t take the risk of this thing being kept alive or experimented on. It needed to die.
The rumbling came from within the cave. Despite the cold, Eric began to sweat under his coat. Each step brought him closer to the inevitable. He felt the cold steel of his revolver on his hip. The gun wasn’t for the beast. The gun was for him. He had decided that if he’d rather end himself quickly than be mauled to death by that monster. He grew closer to the monster. He could feel it growing closer. He eventually reached the end of the cave. He turned on his flashlight to see a pool of water, but he beast wasn’t there. That’s impossible, he thought. He wasn’t late. The beast couldn’t have escaped. Even if it did, he would have seen it on his way to the cave or even when he had arrived at the nearby town. It didn’t make any sense. Was the beast gone for good?
Just them he heard a rumbling. The water started to splash along the rocks of the cave. Something was moving under the water. A shape began to form below the surface of the water. It was almost as if it was growing in size. Finally bubbles rose to the surface. Before he knew it, the beast rose up from the water. It crawled out screaming in pain. The monster arose from the water, soaked from the pool. It staggered once it got onto its feet. Looking up into the light, it covered it’s face. It was adjusting to the light.
It then began to slowly walk towards Eric, grunting along the way. Eric stood frozen for a moment. He wasn’t expecting this. The beast was picking up speed. In a few moments it was almost in a full sprint. Eric prepared his spear and got ready to defend himself. The beast came charging towards him. He stabbed it in the shoulder, but it kept going. It pushed itself further into the spear. The beast grabbed Eric with it’s free hand and threw him against the wall.
Eric blacked out for a second, quickly waking himself up. He stood on his feet in a haze when he felt the burning sensation in his thumb. It was broken. Luckily it wasn’t his dominant hand. He began to run towards the entrance of the cave. Running to get the spear would be suicide and his gun was useless anyways. He messed up. There was nothing to do but run. The beast was clearly faster than Eric, almost catching up to him in a matter of minutes, but Eric trained for this. He picked up more speed as the haze wore off.
Each stride grew larger and he began to move faster. He had to think quickly or he was dead. The only thing he could think of would be to blow up the entrance of the cave, but the beast was too close for him to detonate it at a safe distance. If he wanted to survive, he would have to take a risk. He was getting close to the entrance of the cave when he heard the beast behind him. It was closing the distance between them. It was coming for him. He pulled out the detonator from his pocket. He was almost at the entrance now. If he blew it too early he’d be trapped in the cave with the beast or the rubble would crush him. If he blew it too late the beast would escape. His timing had to be perfect or he’d be dead.
Just as he thought this, he tripped over something. Eric fell onto the ground, only to see the beast lumbering behind him. He got a glimpse of the beast’s face. There was something he hadn’t expected on the beast’s face: confusion. It was like the look on the face of a lost child, scared and afraid. Eric got back onto the feet, just barely dodging the beast. Eric picked up speed once again, this time gaining a substantial lead on the beast. He approached the entrance of the cave, glancing behind him quickly to see the beast getting closer. As Eric reached the entrance of the cave, he detonated the C4.
The blast propelled Eric forward. The haze came back, this time accompanied by a deafening ringing. The rocks crumbled on top of the beast. As far as he knew it was dead. Even if it wasn’t, it definitely wasn’t strong enough to push those rocks off him. The dagger was gone, though. The one thing that could kill the beast was gone. Eric sat in the snow and wondered what would happen next year. The unwelcome cold greeted him once again. He just wanted to get away from it all. Eric stood up, reaching into his bag. He pulled out his carton of cigarette, picking out the one closest to the front. He held it up, shaking from the nerves, and lit it. He took a deep breath and started the long journey home.