The Box | By: Mason Cole | | Category: Short Story - Horror Bookmark and Share

The Box

He was a grumpy old man, living in a rundown house near the center of town. Every time the Council met, they introduced a resolution to knock the old eyesore down. It was always discussed, debated, and dismissed. No one knew why some ramshackle house of four centuries in age had even been allowed to stand through last decade's rebuilding project, but it had been. There it stood, proof against the plots to replace it.

There was no denying that it was a singular house. Once, when it stood new-built, it had probably even been considered beautiful. However, it should not have survived past the XXI. Now, somewhere in the middle of the XXIV, it was facing imminent structural collapse. Its forest green wooden walls were chipped and faded, setting it starkly at contrast with the alabaster buildings that occupied the City wallwash. Steel girders held its ugly edifice aloft at many points (there was a Citywide joke that the Council didn't want to approve a razing that the next strong wind would accomplish).

Still, the house only elicited interest and sad expressions from the Cityfolk. It was the man for whom they reserved their disgust and loathing.

He had a hawk nose and beady eyes that shifted swiftly, never resting on any one thing for long. His craggy features caught the light, grabbed it from the air and forced it to whirl and twist in an unnatural dance. He lived alone, no dog or cat to keep him company. No group claimed possession of him: the local troop of the Christian Scouts of Northamerica said he had never been their Scoutmaster; Luther High could prove he was no teacher or coach. Not a living soul had ever seen him drag his ill-nourished, bedraggled body into a church. Everyone said he had a Bible that he studied at night, but it was clothed in an unusual book cover more silver than his hair.

The kids called him Shunner the Stunner.

Shunner was not a compliment. Anyone who forsook the Faith earned the appellation automatically-for life. Stunner came from his eyes. They were black, and weakly glowed, as if they had an intensity that had once been greater. People who were actually foolhardy enough to talk to him reported a feeling of helplessness, of stupefaction. Although he was old and weak, he still had an air of agelessness about him that frightened many.

Adding to his mystery was the testimony of one Jacqueline Summers, once the oldest person in wallwash. Six years ago, she had quietly let it be known that she had been on speaking terms with Shunner in the past, when she was 11. She swore that he had looked the same even then, and that his name was Bram. Shortly after, she had died at the ripe old age of 108.

Nobody placed much stock in the ravings of a demented old woman-especially one that had won the City's award for "Best Tall-Tale Teller" a record 71 years in a row. Still, Shunner seemed to want to be left alone, and everyone was happy to oblige him. The story, at least, gave them some excuse, and they played that excuse to its maximum limits.

He alone was exempt from paying property tax. No priest or minister knocked on his door demanding money for their church. If a disturbance took place, the Cross guards never called him in for questioning. Even if it meant leaving a wooden house (which the rumormongers swore still had actual working electrical lights) standing practically in Center Square and ruining the pristine white holy humbleness of the City, the price was acceptable. The Council, guided by their Law, did not want to disturb an old man who appeared not to care about anything in the world.

* * * * *

"But it just isn't Legal! I could get in trouble!"

"Whatsa matta, little Dewdrop? Scared? Chicken?"

"Haven't you ever heard of the Golden Rule?"

"Buh-CAWWWK! Buck-buck-buck-buhCAWWK!"

It was I-day, which everyone still celebrated out of tradition. I-day used to be a day of celebration for some country or other, but had long since been cancelled as an actual holiday. The reason was that there were no countries anymore. Nevertheless, every time the fourth of July rolled around, fireworks went off around the globe.

At the park near the ancient Fort Walla-Walla in the city of wallwash, it was time for the I-day fish fry with fresh salmon. It was also time for the annual big children's game of Truth or Dare. Officially, the Council frowned on such boisterous activities. Unofficially, they encouraged them in every way they could. If the children grew up faster after making a few mistakes, then it was all for the better in the end.

Dewey Hatch, the son of the senior Councilman, stood in the center of his peers' circle with fists clenched. Facing him was the oldest boy, Teddy Rollins. Teddy loved to play Truth or Dare, and he loved to pick on Dewey. When both were combined, it was a red-letter day for him.

"I am not scared. But the Golden Rule says-"

"Don't wanna break the Rule 'cause your daddy's a Councilman?"

"I don't want to break the Rule because I happen to like the rules."

"Ooh…If Dewey breaks the Rule, Dewey's going to hell!"

One of Teddy's friends had started the game off with the intent of rigging Dewey's humiliation.
Asking Teddy to perform a simple dare, he had then proclaimed it Teddy's turn. Everyone knew that Teddy would pick on Dewey, but not in their wildest imaginations did they guess that Dewey would pick Dare. Nor did they ever think that Teddy would order Dewey to pull a Summers.

"What if he doesn't want to talk?"

"Then you lose."

"So just because I don't want to talk to Shunner, I lose, and if I do and he doesn't, I still lose?"

"You got it, shrimp." Teddy laughed.

"Fine." To the utter astonishment of everyone, Dewey turned his back on Teddy and started walking in the direction of the forbidden house.

"You know, man," said Teddy's friend, "that was low. It ain't his fault his dad's been elected by the Presbyterians for twenty years. Now he's gonna get killed, man. Shunner's gonna rip his head off."

"Cool. Then let's go watch." Teddy turned on his heel military-style and marched after Dewey. The rest of the kids, fearing for Teddy's sanity, followed him.

* * * * *

Dewey walked up timidly to the door. From the looks of things, just touching it would make it crumble. He reached his hand up to knock.

Shunner opened the door before the hand could fall on the old scarred surface. He grabbed Dewey's outstretched appendage, and yanked him inside. The door closed.

* * * * *

Teddy and the mob arrived just in time to see the door slam, with Dewey nowhere in sight. They assumed the worst, and scattered.

* * * * *

Shivering with fear, Dewey found himself sitting on a dust-covered antique couch. He had seen one like it for sale once, when the last traveling salesman came through. He'd never known any furniture could feel so soft, so comfortable.

Approaching him, and sitting down in an overstuffed armchair, was Shunner. He smiled with his eyes, but not with his mouth. It gave him the look of someone ready to do malice.

"I know you," Shunner said in a baritone rusty through lack of use. It was oddly accented, and creaky, with a songlike quality to the words.

Dewey could not say anything. He almost fainted.

"You're the minister's kid, right? The Presbyterian?"

A shaky nod.

"I saw you with that group." Shunner's house was only a few blocks away from the park, with a clear line of sight to the center, where the Truth or Dare game had been going on. "You have some questions for me, don't you?"

Another silent nod.

"So, ask." Shunner leaned back, appearing to physically be preparing himself for the onslaught. "Whatever questions you have, I'll answer them-within the Law."

Dewey swallowed. "Within the Law" was a phrase used only when you had something you didn't wish told around, and wanted to warn someone that you weren't going to answer any questions you didn't want to. "Shunner-" he began, then fell silent.

Shunner quietly waited.

"What's your-name?"

This time, a small close-mouthed smile appeared on the old man's face. "Bram."

So maybe the Summers story was true! Dewey tried another question, emboldened by his success. "How old are you?"

"Next question."

Why do you live alone? Dewey asked silently. He did not expect an answer to an unspoken question. No one was a mind reader, after all.

But the old man nodded approvingly, and answered anyway. "I live alone because I want to. No one tells me what to do. I'm ancient, and I know too much for my own good, and I stay in this house day after day because I try and keep to the Rule. All I want is to be left alone!"

Dewey started to stammer something out, then fell silent.

"I'll tell you a story," said the old man softly. "Once upon a time, I broke every rule we live by today. If I had been under the jurisdiction of a Religious Council, I would have been hanged for sure. But where I lived, no one told me what to do. I was power, and I used it.

"But then the Reformation came. Every Christian church in the world united, and covered the earth with banners of crosses. The Interdict came down on all other cultures. You Christians, you live only by blind faith. Science and religion have no common ground in the true Christian heart, because faith means no questions asked. Without questions, science can't exist."

Dewey was flabbergasted. If what he was hearing was right, this man had to have been alive for three hundred years and more!

"Formerly, I had lived on hurting people. Then I decided that to live in peace with Christians, I would have to see what Christianity was like. So I renounced my life, my culture, my nature, my very soul-and moved here. I have tried to reform, to become one of you. It is hard at times, and sometimes I long to resume my life. But I have found some measure of peace, and so perhaps someday even I may-"

He got no further, for an evil stench had begun to waft its way into the room. Dewey smelled it, and wrinkled his nose. The old man noticed, too. His placid surface suddenly turned to wrath. "GET OUT!" he cried. Moments later, Dewey found himself on the front porch. He picked himself up, and ran down the street as fast as his 12-year old legs would carry him. One thing about exiting the house kept running through his mind all night.

He had never walked back through the door.

* * * * *

That night at the dinner table, Dewey put a question to his father. "Dad, is the Council a good thing? Does it help us, or hurt us?"

Jeffrey Hatch nearly choked on his salad. Glaring at his son, he responded, "Have you been studying your history, Dewey?"

Dewey knew what was coming-the old do-you-know-how-it-used-to-be lecture that he loathed more than he despised Teddy Rollins. He also knew that he couldn't escape it. "Yes, sir."

"Do you know how it used to be? Back before the churches took over, millions of people were starving. There weren't enough homes to go around. The threat of planetary destruction through divine wrath loomed over us at every turn. My word, son, the Council helps us, of course!"

Dewey tried to interrupt his father before he could continue with the you-are-so-fortunate-and-ungrateful tirade. "But what about the people who didn't believe in Christianity? Didn't they hate being forced to change?"

The minister turned purple. "Who's been poisoning your mind with such blasphemous thoughts?"

"No one. I thought them up on my own." It was the first lie Dewey had ever told.

His father glared at him. "Then I suggest you say a much longer prayer tonight, Dewey, for the salvation of your soul. You are so fortunate and ungrateful-"

Not again, Dewey thought. His father continued through his reveries.

"-you don't even know how lucky you are that you didn't live back then. Maybe those people didn't like converting, but they probably thanked God for their salvation in heaven. Now not another word of this nonsense, Dewey. Finish your supper. You need it to keep you strong in body and faith."

"But what about all the progress we could have made?"

Dewey spent a night thinking about the lost scientific process in his room, without supper.

* * * * *

The next day, his father assigned him a summer report to research the history of the Council system at the library. He wrote a brilliant report about the early squabbles between the churches in the XXI (sometime around 2087), and the eventual solution of governing the world on a City-by-City basis, with every major religion represented electing a Council member. Wrapping up the report in just under five hours, he signed off of the ancient library computer (people said that someday, there would be a better system called a card catalogue, and books would no longer be solely on computer) and walked outside. Seven steps into his journey, he was rudely slammed against the alabaster wall by Teddy Rollins.

"OK, dweeb, spill what happened yesterday." Teddy's blue eyes glared down at Dewey from the top of his large, stocky frame. It was impossible from looking at his face, red with anger, to tell where his skin left off and his hair began. With his hand wrapped around Dewey's neck, Dewey wasn't particularly eager to try, either.

"Beg pardon?" Dewey's round face glowed with innocence.

"What happened with Shunner? Don't even think about lying to me."

"I just talked to him, that's all. He seemed kind of sad."

Teddy reinforced his hold on Dewey until the latter thought he would never breathe again. Then he leaned down over his thick arms until his face was less than an inch from the struggling Dewey. "You're lying, shrimp."

"I am not lying! I talked to him!"

"You coward. You probably ran away from the house and never even saw Shunner." This time Teddy knew he was lying, but he managed to keep a straight face. It was the result of years of practice.

"His name is Bram!"

Teddy choked harder, and Dewey's vision went red. "So you believe that Summers crap?"

"…his name…Bram…sinner…repenting…" Dewey managed to gasp.

Suddenly, Teddy released his hold. His victim's 64-inch frame collapsed like a broken doll on the sidewalk. Teddy towered over him, a giant gloating over his latest deed of mayhem. "Now why would he be repenting, scum? Hmm?"

Dewey could still barely breathe. "He…hurt people…bad…old man…centuries…before the Interdict…"

* * * * *

Teddy ignored the squirming boy at his feet. His mind had jumped elsewhere-far away, to a land of personal gain.

Teddy could be cruel and evil. He was often mischievous, tyrannical, and acted as though he was the spawn of the devil. Some people insulted him, most mocked him, and no one liked him. They said many things about him.

Dumb was never one of them.

Teddy was a genius in many ways. Had he turned that genius toward the ministry, or the lost sciences, he might have been of some value to the world. But every time he looked at a situation, he saw only the ways (innumerable, hopefully) that it could benefit Theodore Zechariah Rollins.

His mind was on the warpath again. This time, it was waging war against Shunner.

Dewey had a reputation for telling the truth. He probably wasn't lying. And even if he was (especially about centuries-Teddy couldn't even begin to grasp what Dewey meant by that), then Teddy could still get people to believe that Shunner had broken at least one of the twelve rules. Had Teddy been thinking, he would have realized that he had broken the rules many times himself, and was in the process of doing so again. But he was already planning what he would do with his fame once he (and only he) exposed the evil old man and had him run out of town at the least.

So, with the brass ring before him, and a lifetime of training in despicable acts as a pseudo-Christian behind him, Teddy never hesitated.

He lied for the last time.

"Dewey," he said, picking the younger boy off the sidewalk and carefully dusting his clothes off,
"I believe you about all of it. I'm with you. What should we do?"

The minister's son thoughtfully glanced up at Teddy from behind a mop of dark brown tousled hair. "Why now? Why didn't you believe me at first?"

"Because it all fits now," Teddy explained earnestly. "It fits with everything I knew was wrong. Wrong about this City, wrong with the world. We have to expose this maniac before it's too late, Dewey.
I'm telling the truth here, now. You have to believe me!"

In his mind he added, You'd better-squirt.

* * * * *

Dewey knew Teddy was lying. It was incredibly obvious. What did Teddy know about what was wrong with the world? He was laying on the act a little too thick.

But there was also no way that Dewey could prove his knowledge. Certainly to the outward eye, Teddy appeared reasonable, rational. So with a supposition in hand and no way to back it up with facts, Dewey made the biggest mistake of his young life.

"OK, Teddy. Now what are we going to do about it?"

"Easy. We have to search his house for evidence."

"Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt love the neighbor as thyself."

"But what if thou hast evidence for a crime?"

Now Dewey saw the trap. It was a trap for Shunner, and for him as well. He tried to sidestep it. "Then the courts would prosecute the criminal-and the person who illegally obtained evidence."

* * * * *

Teddy couldn't believe the way things were going. This was going to be almost too easy.

"Dewey, it has to be you."

"ME??? Why me?"

"Because Shunner-"


"OK, fine. Because Bram trusts you. Because you're small enough so that you won't attract attention when you sneak in. Because you have a reputation as a truth-teller."

"Yeah, OK. So I lie in court?" Dewey didn't bother to mask his rage. "So they can catch me and you get the credit and I take the punishment? No thanks, Teddy."

He tried to leave, but he had forgotten one small detail. Teddy could free-lift 196 pounds. Dewey weighed 127.

In a half-second, Dewey's ribs were crushed and his breath was expelled in a whoosh as his back made solid contact with the wall. Teddy glowered. "You skipped out on Truth or Dare."

"I did not!"

"Yes, you did." Teddy's voice was soft and hypnotic, like a snake slithering through the grass in search of a helpless mouse. "Do you remember what happened to the last kid that tried to do that?"

Dewey swallowed hard. It had been one of the most un-Christian things in the world; seeing Jimmy Hendricks tied to a tree with intestines from a slaughtered cow had been disgusting. He knew he hadn't skipped out on the game, but there was no doubt that Teddy would say he had. And then he could look forward to a worse fate than Jimmy's.

"What time do you want me to check it out?"

* * * * *

At exactly 20 minutes to midnight, Dewey slipped inside a third-story window on the south side of the old green house near the center of the City.

He had mapped out his plan of search. He would examine each floor for any evidence whatsoever that Bram was what he said he had been. He did not dare back out. Teddy was waiting outside-with what, Dewey didn't want to think.

The third floor was easy to search. It was nothing but a gigantic dirty wood-paneled room with a staircase opposite from him. There were no boxes to look in, no obstacles to peer around. After giving it a very cursory once-over, he started down the staircase.

The powerful, disgusting odor of rotting animal flesh from below stopped his descent.

Cautiously, he peered around the corner of the staircase. What he saw nearly made his heart stop.

There were literally piles of skeletons and rotting carcasses. Some were relatively fresh, others were in the last stages of decay; still more were pieces and fragments of some (by now) indiscernible animals. There were two doors on each side of a hallway to the left, off of the main room, with a staircase at the end. He started down the hallway and opened the first door on the left.

Skeletons tumbled out, pouring over him. He was drowning in a sea of discolored bones. Gasping, he frantically clawed his way out of the pile. He peered into the room, and saw that it had two doors. No need to open the other one, then. Much more cautiously, he opened the first door on the right, fearing another avalanche.

Rows and rows of glass jars peered out at him, gleaming on their shelves with a preternatural light. There were labels on all of them: RABBIT, FOX, COYOTE, BEAR, SQUIRREL. Some of the jars were completely full, others were almost empty. More were somewhere in between. And all of them were filled with a strikingly similar crimson liquid…

Palpitating with fear now, Dewey opened the last door in the hallway. It was nothing but a small closet. At first glance, nothing seemed to be inside, but then he saw a metal box in the corner.

It was ancient in appearance, covered with rust and marked by all the appurtenances of decay. It looked heavy, but when Dewey picked it up to test it, it seemed quite light. He had managed to carefully lift it out of the closet and was starting to walk away when footsteps fell on the stair leading up from the first floor. Dewey ran for his life.

The footsteps behind him changed. They grew faster, more malevolent. Dragging the box behind him now, Dewey carefully climbed up the stairs to the third floor. Dashing across the attic, he heaved the box out of the open window with all his strength, and then jumped out himself.

He landed on the ledge he had used to accommodate his entrance. Quickly crawling around the house, he used a secure rope to make good his escape. Teddy was waiting for him at the bottom of the rope, already holding the box. Together, they quickly left the scene of the crime.

* * * * *

It was 1:15 by the old library clock. Teddy had forced the old-fashioned lock on the door. It was simply a remnant of the outdated days when people used to steal, and was only locked out of tradition. Still, Teddy got past it quite easily, leaving Dewey to wonder how he possibly knew about such things.

Teddy was currently engaged in using his considerable expertise in the area to pry open their iron prize. He had been working on it for the last twenty minutes, and had expressed a feeling that it would soon give way. When it fell open, both stared in wonder and awe.

"Damn!" was all Teddy could say.

Dewey didn't feel inclined to contradict him.

The box was filled with many, many precious gems. By all rights, it should have been heavy when it was laden with such a precious cargo. Yet it was as light as if it had been packed with feathers.

On the top of the treasure sat two books. One Dewey recognized immediately as the much-rumored Bible. It did indeed have a silver cover over it that appeared to be made of very finely woven actual silver. The other was a much older book. The cover was almost completely torn away, and the pages were yellow through years of exposure to air. Because of the poor condition, the title on the front was impossible to read. It was still inscribed on the inside pages, however. Dewey picked it up.

Teddy whirled on Dewey. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Just looking at this book."

"Fine, I don't care if you do that-but these jewels are mine. I thought this up, so I name the share I get."

Dewey was about to object on the grounds that he had actually gotten the box, as well as the fact that they had no idea treasure would be involved, but something inside him told him to drop the matter. "Sure, Teddy."

Teddy grunted with satisfaction, and bent over the precious rocks. Dewey, meanwhile, had found the title page of the book and headed off to the library computer.

He found the title under XIX fiction. Calling up the book on the screen, he started to skim it. After a while, as he picked up the plot, he began to read sections of it, and then to speed-read in earnest. Worry lines creased his forehead. Two hours later, when he had finished, he knew they were in big trouble.


"What, dweeb?"

"Um…you might want to have a look at this."

Dewey had called up a few sections of the book for his sometime partner to peruse. Teddy sat down grudgingly, but the plot drew him in as well. When he finished, he turned to Dewey with a shocked expression on his face. "No way! You mean that guy back there is…is a…"

"Yeah," Dewey said gravely. "It's just our luck. We turned him loose."

* * * * *

Thunderstorms rolled through the hills around the City in the early morning hours. Usually, small Wesley Lake, engineered in the XXI just before the Interdict, had a calm and quiet surface. That morning, mere hours from dawn, its water was broiling like it was over a hot burner. It was to the lake that Teddy and Dewey dragged their cargo, and it was in the water that the cargo went.

They hid in the bushes, waiting to see when their adversary would come along, hunting for his box. After a few minutes, an owl hooted. Dewey bumped against Teddy, causing the gems that Teddy had cleverly hidden inside his shirt to fall out onto the cold ground. Dewey turned to Teddy, fixed him with a look of steel, and was about to say something when footsteps crashed through the brush across the lake.

Bram plunged through a small gap in the foliage, and not even breaking stride, waded into the lake. The two frightened boys watched for clouds of steam to rise, for Bram to scream his final terror as he dissolved in the icy waves.

Bram did not steam up. He quickly swam across the lake, where he caught sight of his box lying in three feet of water. He dived down, retrieved it, and brought it to the surface.

He opened the top partway, and pages from the book that Dewey had picked up started to float out with the water collected in the chest. Bram became agitated, and started kicking up the water. "My book!" he wailed in a voice filled with woe. He said the phrase the way an architect watching a bomb go off might cry, "My building!" or a carpenter seeing the results of a barroom brawl might scream, "My table!"

He opened it up all the way-and then let out a terrifying scream. Not only had Teddy stolen most of his gems, but also the finely woven silver cover from off of his Bible. The cross was prominently displayed on the front of the holy book.

Bram shrank back, avoiding it. But as time went by and nothing happened, a crafty look came on to his face. He carefully crept back to the book, and looked inside, visibly flinching. The cross was still there. He hesitantly reached out, and traced its shape. Yet he did not howl in pain-and his finger was not burned when he pulled it swiftly away.

"At last," he whispered. Then he shouted, "AT LAST!!! Immunity from thee! Christians, beware. I offered peace to you, and you refused it. You stole my possessions, tried to kill me through pitiful methods, and destroyed my autobiography. Now is the time-I have returned for revenge!" He howled this last to the storm, which picked up and swirled, matching pace with his gleeful cries.

Teddy picked up a pointed branch and charged into the clearing. Bram turned around and glared, and Teddy was stopped cold. Bram walked around him, then turned and looked at the bushes. Dewey knew that he was well hidden, but Bram was uncannily glancing at the exact spot where he was sitting. His body went slack with fear.

"Dewey," whispered Bram, and yet the whisper reverberated like an echo all around. "Oh, Dewey, I know you're in the bushes. I know you helped do this to me. I always thought you were such an honest, faithful lad, and now you've taken that confidence I had in you away. Oh, I know he started it"-jerking his head back at Teddy's frozen form-" but you never should have followed him." He stepped even closer to the bushes, and Dewey's muscles involuntarily began backing up.

"Do you think I wouldn't have saved you?" he continued. "Do you think that this monster would have laid his hands on you? I trusted you, and you proved that humans are all so hypocritical, never practicing what they preach. Oh, I will deal with you, little one, never fear. But-HIM FIRST!" His eyes glowed red, and he turned back toward Teddy.

Dewey turned and ran. Teddy's screams followed him.

* * * * *

In his small room, Dewey Hatch had thought alone many times before.

Now, looking around at the sparse wooden furniture while holding a serrated blade to his throat, he thought for the last time.

The sudden disappearance of Teddy Rollins yesterday had touched off long-dormant alarm bells throughout the community. Curfews had been instituted, more rules set down. An emergency had been declared. The Cross had deputized volunteer guards. Dewey almost smiled, thinking how futile their actions were.

God's will be done.

They would pray, and their prayers would not be answered. They could curse, and their curses would be countered. They could wear crosses, and it would not help them. Eventually, after blessings and exorcisms had failed, someone might think of holy water.

By then, it would be far too late.

Science and fiction were formidable concepts to a world of faith. Dewey had no doubt that they would never revert to technology, and never look for similar events in an old rundown library computer.

If they had, an old classic XIX fiction novel would not even have aroused their suspicion and their curiosity. It would only have awakened their scorn, and perhaps their book-banning instincts.

Transmutation? An idea born of Satan. Fear of crosses? The same. Bloodsucking? Something for leeches or psychotic wards. The book would be out of the library computer faster than lightning strikes the earth. No, even with warnings, they would never believe.

Not that Bram's kind needed belief to prey…

And Bram himself was a puzzle. He had honestly tried to reform. He had made a pact with the world, and the world had broken it. But when they did, how easily he went back to his old ways!

There was his old book, with its strange author. Dewey knew now that while the names had been changed, and the beginning of the plot was true, the end was not.

Van Helsing had not survived.

Bram had simply written his book to make everyone think the good doctor had succeeded in his quest to wipe the unholy vermin he preyed on from the face of the earth.

When the prey is also a predator, how quickly the rules can change, and the hunter reverse his role with the hunted! Bram had lived all those years feeling as though he was simply prey left unhunted. Then someone-Dewey-unwittingly began to stalk him. Now he would strike back.

What kind of God would create such a monster, and then let him loose on his pristine creation?

A God who believed that his creation, through lack of progress and belief, plus an overabundance of false faith, was no longer pristine.

Dewey moved the knife over his heart, and looked out the window of his room. What he saw through the transparent pane would normally have stirred horror in his breast, but now it aroused no emotion whatsoever.

A bat rose amidst faint wolf howls to block out the moon. Teddy Rollins, or what was left of him, climbed over the short white picket fence behind the house, following his new Master. The reign of terror, after a long dormancy, had arisen like the phoenix from the ashes.

Dewey had no intention of living to see the only world he knew thrown on the sacrificial fire of a demon's desires.

It was time. Already the bat's wings had scraped the window.

Dewey Hatch fell on his knife as the glass burst and Bram flew through the now-open window into the room.

That last thing that went through Dewey's mind as he slipped permanently into the peaceful abyss was that there would soon be a lot more like Teddy.
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