The Hunted – Part 1 of 2

The Hunted

Chapter 1 – The Darkness Follows

Crager remembered a happier time for himself and his clan.  He recalled a season of warmth and peace when there was no menace.  The cave was a home for his people.  The rocky enclosure had been a welcome shelter but with the arriving darkness, it had become instead a death trap.  Their beloved river had long provided food and water, but was now claimed by the horror that stalked its banks.  Too many of Crager’s people had died a horrible death.

Food had become scarce for the clan once the monster came.  It was eventually unsafe to venture outside of their barricaded cave day or night.  Each time someone went out to scavenge for food, a life was lost in the same terrible way.  First, there was the mindless inhuman bellow of the monster.  There then followed a prolonged guttural scream, a brief silence, and then the grotesque crunching of bones.  As food supplies dwindled, the clan began to ration what was left.  The children particularly were suffering.  Crager’s wife, Danara, had refused to eat so that their son and daughter could have her portion.  It was not enough.  As the clan gradually withered, Crager could no longer stand to see his people slowly die.  Someone had to take the ominous risk and find food.  Crager’s family would have tried to stop him, so he gathered up his weapons and hunting gear and quietly slipped away at night.  He fully expected that the creature would attack him as soon as he emerged from the protective barricade, but there was only the silent black of the night.

Amazed and relieved, Crager made his way steadily all night and in to the day north to the black mountains.  Just beyond the mountain’s highest regions, Crager would find abundant food.  This gave him hope to press forward.  He needed encouragement.  His legs and feet ached relentlessly from the brutal climb up through the rocky pass.  He felt like a tiny ant crawling across an impossible field of enormous boulders.  Just as it seemed that he had gotten beyond danger, he heard a distant bellowing roar that took his breath away.  Far below in the base of the valley, he could see a massive dark shape lumbering steadily up the trail in his direction.  Crager was still a day ahead of his stalker, but this gave him no comfort.  He rushed up the pass with renewed fear and vigor.  Crossing two streams and then taking the steeper north pass trail, Crager felt confident that he would lose the thing that pursued him.  Short of his goal to get to the mountain top region, Crager collapsed in exhaustion, lying down to rest in a crevasse off the trail.  In the morning, he would make the final leg of the journey and begin his hunting.

It was night when Crager was awakened by the hideous stench of rotting flesh.  The complete darkness of the mountains concealed something just a few feet from his hiding place.  An enormous shadow cast itself over the opening.  Steady hoarse breathing from the shadow brought the sickening smell nearer.  Crager heard air being sucked in to massive nostrils just above him. Hot stale blood and saliva dripped down on to his face.  He was hopelessly trapped.  There was a sudden moment of absolute silence and then came the mindless deafening roar.  He had been found.

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