By Lisa McCourt Hollar
Stephanie heard a child crying. It was coming from her father’s woodshed and the first thing she thought was that her brother must have been caught doing something he shouldn’t. She shook her head, wondering how many times their father would have to use the switch on John’s rear end before he learned. Then she remembered that John was at his best friend’s house and their father had gone to town to buy feed for the chickens.
Curious, Stephanie moved closer to the woodshed. Her father had always forbid them to go inside without his permission. The shed was more than just where he stored the kindle for the winter, but his tools too and he was always stressing how dangerous some of his equipment was.
“It takes a sharp axe to not only cut down a tree, but also to chop off the head of a chicken. I don’t need to worry about you or your brother cutting off a finger, just because you were curious. Stay out.”
He had said that to her the one time she had decided to enter the small building without his permission. She had wanted to surprise her parents with a chicken dinner for their anniversary. Stephanie had never butchered a hen before, but she had seen her father cut the heads off and didn’t think it would be too difficult. Finding his axe inside the shed, she had gone in search of the perfect pullet. Her father had come running when he heard the commotion. She had managed to put the chicken up on the block and had brought the axe down, but she didn’t have the strength, or the heart, to land the blow with accuracy. She’d only partially severed the hen’s head. The blood had splattered onto her face and she’d lost her grip of the bird. The creature was running around the yard, blood spraying everywhere when her father got there.
‘It was good chicken though,’ Stephanie thought, shuddering at the memory.
The crying inside the woodshed had become louder and it sounded to her as though whoever it was, was in pain. The closer she got, the more it sounded like her brother and Stephanie’s imagination conjured up images of John, his hand severed off and a bloody axe on the ground next to him. She knew it was a ridiculous idea, John was only seven, but old enough to know better than to touch their father’s
axe. And not so clumsy as to cut off his hand, even if he had that kind of strength. But John was at Mark’s and another child might just be clumsy enough.
“Hello,” Stephanie called out, as she approached the building. “Are you alright in there?”
The crying stopped, but no one answered her. Stephanie pushed the door open and peered into the dark.
“You’re not going to be in trouble for trespassing. If you’re hurt, I can help you. Do you live around here?”
There weren’t many children that lived this far from town, just John’s friend, Mark and his brother. Samuel was her age and had a crush on Stephanie. He used to come around all the time, until she’d made it clear she wasn’t interested…in him or any boy for that matter.
“Are you hurt?” Stephanie stepped into the shed. She could make out the shape of a boy in the corner, but she couldn’t see who it was. His back was turned towards her and he seemed…odd, he looked like he was transparent. Stephanie didn’t believe in ghosts, but her heart caught in her throat as the figure turned and she recognized John. His body was indeed opaque and she could see through him to the wall on the other side. Suddenly her worst fears, her father’s warnings about the dangers inside the building flooded her mind and she feared the worst. John had somehow come back home from Mark’s, maybe they’d had a fight, and he had gone into the woodshed to hide and…and…
And he vanished. The image of John had dissipated and standing in front of her instead, was a man she had never seen before. His eyes were the first thing she noticed, even in the shadows. They were completely black.
Stepping back, Stephanie tried to say something, to ask the stranger who he was, but nothing came out. She couldn’t speak. He smiled at her then, showing his teeth, which shined in the dark. They were sharp, shaped more like a wolf than a human and glimmered with saliva. Stephanie had no doubt he would rip her throat open with his teeth.
Suddenly finding her voice, she screamed. Turning to run, Stephanie discovered that the door to the woodshed had closed behind her. She shoved against it as hard as she could, but it refused to open. Turning back towards the creature, Stephanie pressed her back against the door. The man was right in front of her.
“Please,” she begged, “don’t hurt me.”
He reached out and stroked her cheek with his hand. Stephanie cringed, pulling her face away from his finger. His nails were sharp and he gripped her face, digging them into her jaw and commanding that she be still. Then he lifted her chin, turning it so that her neck was exposed. Licking his lips, he growled slightly. “Hurting you is not my intention.”
Then he leaned forward and closed his mouth around Stephanie’s throat. Feeling his fangs pierce her skin, Stephanie struggled to free herself. Her effort was short lived as she became dazed. A feeling of peace swept over her and she leaned into him, raptured by his touch. She didn’t want him to stop.
Just before she lost consciousness, she saw another vision of John. Her brother was afraid and backing away from someone. Looking into his eyes, she saw her face reflected within. It was her he feared and her eyes were pitch black.
Word Count: 989