After walking for over an hour, Julie and Dave started to doubt if they were on the right trail. Dark woods surrounded them and the increasing intensity of the rain made visibility almost nonexistent. Following the light emanating from the house, they quickened their pace into the yard. The porch steps creaked loudly as they ascended them.
Julie couldn’t decide if it was the wind or an animal when she heard the howling. Turning to her husband, Julie laughed.
“Well, we’re here. It wasn’t that bad of a walk, was it?”
Dave looked at his wife and smiled.
The howl came again, this time louder.
“What is that?” Julie said.
Through the rain, Dave could see something approaching.
“Do they have a dog?” Dave said.
The howling began on all sides of the house. It seemed to come from all points in the darkness. The animal in front of them made no sound as it continued inching towards the porch.
“It’s a wolf!” Dave shouted. “Get the door open.”
“Hello!” Julie yelled, beating against the door with her fist. “Can you hear us? Open the door!”
The wolf stopped at the bottom of the stairs.
Out of the darkness, Dave could see the rest of the pack; they came from all sides.
Growling, the wolf began up the steps. The pack howled a frightening chorus of hunger and savagery.
Pushing Julie aside, Dave threw all his weight against the door.
“Dave!” Julie yelled as the wolf reached the top of the stairs.
Barring its teeth, Dave saw the damage the animal could inflict. The growling ceased as the animal bent its head back and howled loudly, then dove at them with its mouth wide.
Bringing his foot up quick, Dave kicked the animal under its jaw, causing it to take a step back, dazed and bleeding from where it had bit its own tongue. The wolf turned and gave a short yelp; the pack rushed the porch.
Neither Dave nor Julie had ever heard a shotgun fired at close range. The wolves turned tail and ran off into the dark. Dave and Julie grabbed each other and hugged. Their cloths were wet, they were cold, and the shotgun blast had almost given them a heart attack.
The front door was open and sitting in a wheelchair was the owner of the house. He wore a bathrobe and had a blanket over his legs. The shotgun he held looked as old as he did.
“I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, but, as you see, my movement is limited.” His voice was soft and hard to hear against the wind. “I’m Preston Bradley. Please, come in.”
The house was warm and dimly lit. The dining room table was set for two and there was food cooking on the stove. In the living room an elderly woman was sleeping on a cot.
“My wife.” Preston said, noticing where they were looking. “She has not been well for a long time. I hope her presence doesn’t make you uncomfortable.”
“Of course not.” Julie said, taking off her backpack
“Would you like to eat first, or get yourselves situated?”
“I’d like to get out of these wet cloths.” Dave said. “Where will we be sleeping?”
“Upstairs, first door on your right. The bathroom is across the hall.”
Once upstairs, Julie and Dave undressed.
“Do you want to shower first?” Julie said. “Or shall we shower together?”
“This place seem romantic to you, does it?” Dave laughed.
“It could be worse.” Julie said. “At least it’s cozy. I told you I could have come by myself.”
“And miss almost getting eaten alive? I don’t think so. Get in the shower, I’ll unpack.”
Julie gave him a quick kiss and then went across the hall to the bathroom.
Removing his pants, Dave saw that his leg was bleeding.
‘I kicked that bastard good.’ Dave thought. ‘All he got on me was a few scratches.’
Julie stood letting the warm water flow over her body as she rubbed shampoo in her hair.
“Dave?” Julie said, shampoo running down her face. “I’m almost done, unless you’ve changed your mind about joining me.”
The lights in the bathroom went out.
“Very funny, Dave.”
“Julie…” The voice didn’t sound like her husband’s.
“Who’s there? Turn on the lights.”
Julie felt the water getting hotter. She turned the handle but it did nothing. Shampoo stung her eyes as she tried to step back from the heat, but the shower was too small to avoid getting hit. Reaching to tear open the curtain, her hand hit solid wall; she was trapped and the water was reaching the point of burning.
“Help!” Julie screamed. “Dave, help me!”
Dave ran into the bathroom and turned on the light. Steam billowed out from the shower, fogging up the mirror and window. Pulling open the shower curtain he saw his wife’s skin was bright red. He turned off the water.
“What happened?” Dave said.
Julie checked her body and was relived to find she wasn’t burned.
“The water wouldn’t stop, I couldn’t get out.”
“Are you all right?”
“I guess.” Julie said, calmed to find she was uninjured. “A few more seconds and I’d be cooked”
“But were still staying the weekend I take it.” Dave said, trying to bring light to the situation. “I mean, let’s not let wolves and bad plumbing ruin our stay, right?”
“You’re sooo funny. Let’s go down and eat, unless you want to take a scalding…I mean a shower.”
They walked back to their room and Julie put on dry cloths.
“Were you calling me when I was in the shower?” Julie said, remembering the voice.
When they went downstairs the food was already on their plates. It was a delicious meal, yet off-putting having to eat within sight of the convalescing woman. Dave couldn’t help looking at her.
“Is the food to your taste?” Preston said as he wheeled into the room.
“It’s very good.” Julie said. “Did you cook it?”
“I’m afraid I haven’t cooked in years, my dear. Samuel does most everything around here.”
“He’s the son of an old acquaintance of mine. He lives in the barn out back. You’ll meet him tomorrow.”
“I look forward to seeing the paintings you wrote me about.” Julie said, laying her fork down on the empty plate.
“Yes, they’re very old and I’m interested to see how much they’re worth.”
“Well, that’s what Julie does best.” Dave said, lifting his glass in cheers to his wife. “And this is what I do best, keeping her company while she works.”
Once they were back in the bedroom, Julie and Dave got ready for sleep. The rain beat against the window as the wind moaned incessantly. Dave took off his pants and was about to get under the sheets when Julie gasped.
“What happened to your leg?”
“The wolf scratched me. It’s not that bad.”
“Not that bad? It’s disgusting.”
Dave looked down at his leg. The surface scratches were now dark and raised.
“We’ve got to get you to a hospital. Doesn’t that hurt?”
Dave was surprised; he couldn’t feel a thing.
“We’re not walking back to the car tonight. I’ll clean it and we’ll see how looks in the morning.”
The thunder kept Julie awake. The lighting was bright and caused dark shadows to fall across the bed. Dave slept unmoving and snoring softly.
The thunder built momentum until it seemed as if they were happening above the house. A loud blast accompanied by a searing light made her sit up straight. The window rattled and slowly began to open: the wind whipped into the bedroom.
Julie got out of bed and went to close the window. Putting all her weight into it, she was unable to make it budge. Thunder clapped and with the lightning she saw a child down in the yard.
“Dave, wake up.”
Rain came through the open window, wetting Julie’s feet.
Dave slept on.
Julie waited for another bolt of lightning, but the thunder stopped. Leaning out the window, she strained her eyes to see the yard below.
Putting on her bathrobe and shoes, Julie walked downstairs. Preston was sleeping on the couch next to his wife on the cot. She tiptoed past them and opened the front door.
Stepping off the porch and into the rain, Julie then walked around to the side of the house. The mud was thick, making her steps slow.
“I saw you,” Julie said. “It’s not safe out here.”
There was faint laughter from beyond the tree line.
Dave was sweating profusely. His eyes opened and for a moment he couldn’t breath. Rolling off the bed, he writhed on the floor in a pain stronger than he had ever felt. Thick hairs sprouted all over his body. His fingers stretched as his nails grew long. He tried to scream but the sound he made was not human. Standing, he walked to the open window and climbed through, falling the twenty feet to the yard. Lying on his back in the mud and grass, Dave looked to the clouded skies above and howled.
‘Wolves.’ Julie thought as she reached the trees.
She scanned the woods quickly and decided her own safety was just as important as the child that may or may not be there. She started back towards the house and heard a voice call out to her.
“Julie, don’t leave me. I’m all alone.”
“Who’s there? Hello?”
A little boy walked out from behind the trees, wearing only a pair of ripped shorts.
“What are you doing out here?” Julie said.
The child laughed and reached in his pocket, pulling out a large white tooth.
A man appeared from around the corner of the house. As he started towards them, Julie saw it wasn’t a man at all. Grabbing the child’s hand she ran along the perimeter of the woods towards the barn. Stealing a quick glance over her shoulder, she saw the beast drop to all fours and begin its pursuit. The barn door was unlocked and she quickly entered pulling the child behind her.
“You’ve brought something for me?” A voice said from within the darkened barn.
“We’re being chased! This child was out in the woods, I don’t know what’s happening.”
The beast slammed against the barn. Julie held her back to the door, fighting to keep the danger outside.
“That’s a interesting child.”
Looking down, Julie saw she her fingers wrapped around the neck of a lifeless chicken. A scream caught in her throat as she threw the dead animal to the ground.
The beast outside ceased its slamming against the barn.
“Turn on the lights.” Julie said.
Quiet laughter was the only response Julie received.
“It’s Samuel, right? Preston told me…”
“The dark is so much more comfortable.” Samuel said.
His voice seemed to come from directly above her.
“Turn on the lights!” Julie shouted.
“As you wish.”
A bare bulb hanging in the middle of the barn turned on and Julie held her hands in front of her eyes to block the light. Once her eyes adjusted, she saw that, except for her and the dead animal at her feet, the barn stood empty.
Dave awoke naked behind the house; embarrassed and unsure of how he had gotten there. He prayed for Preston and his wife to be sleeping as he ran around to the front porch, opened the door and entered the house.
Julie was sitting in bed hugging her knees when Dave walked into the bedroom.
“Where have you been?” Julie whispered.
“I don’t know. I must have been sleepwalking.”
He turned on the light and Julie’s anxious expression turned to fright.
“Is that blood?”
Walking across the hall, Dave looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. The rain had done a good job of cleaning him, but red stains still covered a good portion of his body. Thinking he must have hurt himself, he searched for signs of injury. Finding no cuts or bruises, he got into the shower. As the red washed off his body he realized the wounds on his leg were gone.
“It’s time to go.” Julie said.
Dave finished toweling off and then got under the sheets next to his wife.
“Now?” Dave said. “It’s the middle of the night.”
“Dave, if I thought you would believe me, I’d tell you what happened. But out of fear of you thinking I’ve lost my mind, I’m saying it’s time to go.”
“I went outside because I thought I saw a kid…” Julie started.
“And I lost my mind. Now let’s get the hell out of this place.”
“You shouldn’t have gone outside by yourself. Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“I tried to, Dave.”
“Listen, if we leave now we’ll end up lost in the woods. Let’s just stay in bed and figure it all out in the morning.”
Julie knew Dave was right; they should wait until daylight.
“I must say you don’t look rested, my dear.”
Julie stared at the breakfast, unable to take a bite. She had not been able to sleep after what had happened and was surprised at how fast Dave fell back asleep; she was mad at him for leaving her to stay awake by herself.
“I didn’t get a good nights sleep”
“I hope the bed was comfortable enough.”
“It was, Mr. Bradley. The thunder kept me up.”
“The rain always brings the storm, my dear.”
Dave came racing down the stairs.
“Good morning, everyone.” Dave said, walking by the unconscious Mrs. Bradley. “I could smell breakfast all the way up in the shower.” He grabbed a sausage off Julie’s plate and shoved it into his mouth. “This is fantastic. Good morning, sweetheart.”
Grabbing Julie, Dave buried his face into her neck and started playfully kissing and biting.
“You’re hair’s still wet.” Julie said, annoyed by her husbands happy demeanor.
“What a beautiful day!” Dave shook his head back and forth, sending water spraying. He fixed himself a plate of food, then sat next to Julie and began talking with his mouth full. “I got to admit, I thought you guys were nuts for living out in the middle of the woods. But now I see you’ve got the right idea. It’s nice not to hear cars and people all the time. Oh, man, this food is unbelievable!”
“I’m glad you like it. It’s not often I have new people to cook for.”
In the doorway stood a tall, pale man.
Julie recognized his voice.
“Allow me to introduce Samuel Forst.” Preston said. “Handyman, cook, and friend.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Dave said, shaking Samuel’s hand. “I’m Dave, and this is my wife Julie.”
“Pleased.” Samuel said as he extended his hand towards Julie.
Julie continued looking at her breakfast.
“Is it just the two of you?” Samuel said, his eyes still fixed on Julie. “For some reason I thought you had children.”
“Just the two of us.” Dave said, going to the kitchen for a second plate of food.
“I’ll begin lunch shortly, Mr. Bradley.” Samuel said, walking out the door.
“Thank you, Samuel.” Preston said.
“Yeah, can’t wait for lunch, Samuel.” Dave said.
Once Dave finished his third plate, he began rubbing his stomach satisfactorily.
“Are you ready to go, Dave?”
“Go?” Preston said. “Why would you leave now?”
“I don’t feel well, and…”
“It’s early,” Dave said. “We’ll leave after lunch and be back at the car by sundown.”
“It would be a shame if you came all this way and didn’t look at the paintings.” Preston said.
“He’s right.” Dave said as he stood and began stretching. “Take it easy, look at some art, and when you’re done we’ll get out of here. Plus, I feel like exploring the grounds for a while.”
The basement steps creaked under Julie’s feet. She stepped off the last stair onto the dirt floor and looked around. A hot water heater stood rusted and alone. On the wall opposite the steps were two closed doors.
“The door on the left.” Preston said from the top of the stairs. “Is there anything else you need?”
“I’ll be fine, thanks.”
“I’ll leave you to it then.”
The door shut at the top of the stairs as Julie closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. The light was dim; for a moment she stood silently watching a spider crawl along the ceiling. She was tired and physically tense. The hope that she would find some lost treasure buried amongst the Bradley’s collection had vanished late last night. Now her only concern was to take a quick inventory of what they had and then be on her way.
Dave ran through the woods as fast as he could. Any logs or brush that lie in his path he hurdled over without losing momentum. His heartbeat was steady and his breathing controlled.
Drops of water began falling from the blue sky.
Dave’s ears picked up the faint cry.
Sprinting in the direction of the voice, Dave began calling out.
“Where are you?”
“Please, help me!”
Dave advanced as quick as he could and entered a clearing canopied by treetops. Lying in the center of the open space was a young girl. She sobbed heavily and continued crying out for help.
As Dave got closer he saw the girls hand was in a bear trap.
“It’s going to be all right.” Dave said, kneeling next to the girl.
She neither looked at him nor ceased crying. The blood from her hand poured freely over the trap and onto the ground, creating a thick crimson mud to form.
Trying to pull the trap open was difficult; the blood making it slippery. Dave could feel heavy layers of rust covering the trap.
“Damn it.” Dave said as the weathered metal cut his hand. “I’m going to have to carry you back to the house. We’ll get it off there. Can you make it?”
The girl continued crying.
Wrapping his arms around her, Dave tried to pick up the girl but she screamed loudly, causing him to lose his grip and drop her to the ground. Getting on his knees he saw the bear trap was anchored to the ground.
“Cut it off!” The girl screamed, throwing her head back and looking at him for the first time.
“I’m going to go get some tools. I’ll be right back.”
“You would leave me, wouldn’t you? Julie told me you were useless!”
“Do I know you? Wait, just stay here and I’ll be back.”
“You’re worthless, you coward!”
Dave noticed the handsaw lying a few feet away.
“That’s right. Pick it up and free me.”
Dave’s thoughts became cloudy as he picked up the saw. It was as rusted as the bear trap and felt heavy in his hand.
“Yes, free me. Straight through the wrist.”
Kneeling next to the girl, Dave slowly began sawing off her hand.
Julie knew she had found something remarkable the moment she turned on the light in the small basement room. Piles of paintings lie before her; all done by an artist whose entire known catalog consisted of eight ridiculously priced works.
With a rush of excitement, she began taking the paintings out of the room and lining them up around the walls of the basement. Julie stopped for a moment and looked at what she had found. Surrounding her were millions of dollars worth of art. For once her name would be attached to an important find.
Forty-five minutes later Julie had all eighty-six paintings sorted throughout the basement. She sat on the ground and smiled; the trip had been worth it. While thinking of what she would need to do to in order to transfer the art out from the middle of the woods, Preston opened the door at the top of the stairs and yelled for her to come up.
Samuel stood supporting Dave in the center of the kitchen. Dave was covered in red from his elbows to his fingertips. His right hand dripped blood from a deep, dark gash across his wrist.
“Dave, are you okay?” Julie said, running to her husband.
“He’s lost a lot of blood,” Samuel said. “He needs to lie down.”
Samuel led Dave upstairs and put him in bed. Julie waited for Samuel to leave the room then rushed to Dave’s side.
“What happened?” Julie whispered.
“A girl,” Dave was pale, his words strained. “She was hurt.”
Samuel entered the room with bandages and an unmarked bottle of liquid.
“Tragic,” Samuel said as he took the cap off the bottle and grabbed Dave’s partially severed wrist. “He must have tripped in the woods. I found him with his hand in a bear trap.” He poured the liquid onto the wound, causing Dave to scream loudly and lose conscience.
At eight o’clock, Julie entered the bedroom with a tray of food, hoping her husband would awake fresh and ready to go. The sun had set, and outside the window the rain was gathering strength.
“Dinners here.” Julie said, putting the tray on Dave’s stomach. “The bags are packed and I’m ready, so sit up, eat, and let’s go.”
Dave felt shaky from blood loss. He took a piece of meat off the plate and put it in his mouth. He chewed slowly, savoring the taste.
“Dave, are you listening?”
“It’s dark out.” Dave said, sitting up and starting on his food. “Listen, Julie, something weird happened to me today. This girl in the woods was hurt and as I was helping her everything just sort of…switched. Thankfully, Samuel showed up and…”
“Finish the food and lets get out of here. You need to see a doctor and I’m not spending another night in this place. Do you understand me?”
Dave moved his hand around in small circles.
“My wrist feels like hell, but the bleeding’s stopped. And like I said, it’s dark out. Plus, it’s raining; it’s not safe.”
“Dave. I haven’t slept, and I won’t be able to sleep. We’ll be at the car in under an hour if we move fast.”
Dave took a huge bite of food.
“Oh, this is great. Did you have some?”
Julie sat at the foot of the bed and put her head in her hands.
“I’m sorry.” Dave said. “At the first sign of daylight we’re leaving, okay?”
“Do you promise to stay awake until I fall asleep?”
“I promise. So, find anything good?”
Julie perked up remembering what was in the basement.
“Dave, you’re not going to believe what these people have. Two hundred years ago the artist Maria North disappeared. She had only done a few paintings and they became extremely popular and outrageously expensive. In the basement of this house are over eighty, never before seen, Maria North originals.”
“We’re talking millions of dollars worth of art, Dave.”
“I’m married to a regular treasure hunter.” Dave said, shoving more food into his mouth.
Dave didn’t keep his promise. He slept soundlessly while Julie sat listening to the wind and rain beat against the window. She hadn’t eaten anything all day and was in need of some nourishment. Reaching the bottom of the stairs she saw Preston and his wife were asleep. As lightly as she could, Julie walked to the kitchen and got a piece of fruit off the counter. She ate slowly and watched the rain fall outside the window.
As she climbed the stairs, Julie could here Dave groaning. She entered the darkened room and flicked the light switch; the lights did nothing.
“Dave, what’s wrong?” Julie said, walking to the side of the bed.
Thunder clapped and with the accompanying lightning she saw her husband was now something nonhuman. Racing down the stairs, she shook Preston awake.
“What’s the matter, dear?” Preston said, rubbing his eyes.
“It’s Dave. Something’s happening to him.”
Dave howled and it echoed throughout the house.
“I’m afraid it’s the wolves, my dear.”
“The wolves?” Julie shouted.
“Yes, around here they are…contagious.”
Down the stairs Dave came bounding. Julie saw he had become the beast that had chased her the night before. She stood frozen as Preston pulled out the shotgun and fired. Dave avoided the shot and dove through a window into the backyard. Julie watched as her husband ran off into the darkness. Preston got on his wheelchair and wheeled himself to the front door.
“You go upstairs and get in bed, I’ll wait here for him to come back.”
“Are you crazy? What’s happening?” Tears formed in Julie’s eyes.
“Go upstairs, everything will be fine.”
At the top of the stairs Julie dropped to her knees. She felt suffocated; a moment away from completely breaking down.
“Your flesh won’t last the night…”
Julie looked around and saw no one.
“Your soul shall be stripped…”
Julies vision spun as she fell to her side. She stopped breathing and threw up the fruit she had eaten. Looking at the puddle she saw small insects writhing in her regurgitation; she threw up again.
The voices continued their assault as Julie made her way back down stairs.
The wheelchair lay sideways, holding the front door ajar. A wind blew causing rain to splash on the inside of the house. She walked to the wheelchair and looked out over the porch; feeling eyes watching her from every shadow. A gust of wind sprayed water over her. Caching sight of something on the porch caused Julie to run through the kitchen and the open basement door, shutting it behind her.
At the bottom of the stairs Julie felt trapped. Looking around at the stacks of paintings and saw nothing that could be of any use. There were no windows and the light burned dim. Julie checked the small room that held the paintings and found no means of escape if she were to be cornered. She walked back into the main room of the basement and approached the door on the right. She put her hand on the knob as the door at the top of the stairs creaked open.
Julie turned the handle and found the door was locked.
The first steps could be heard descending the stairs.
Not wanting to be completely exposed, Julie took the only other option and went quickly to the small room, leaving the door slightly open.
The footsteps reached the basement floor. It was hard for Julie to tell which direction the steps were going, but as the slow shuffling continued she breathed a sigh of relief: they were going to the other door. She heard the door unlock. Whoever was there entered the other room.
Julie left the little room and carefully stepped out to where she could see the other door. It was open and a light was on. Labored breathing could be heard as she took steps closer. She looked at the art surrounding her, a possible positive that could come out of this whole mess. She took one step closer to the door and looked in.
Sitting, with her back to Julie, Mrs. Bradley carefully applied some finishing touches on the painting she was working on. The style and technique was obvious to Julie, and her heart sank at the thought of being swindled by an art forgery operation.
“Seems you’ve discovered more than you intended.”
The voice came from behind. Spinning, Julie saw Samuel smiling at her.
“It’s strange, she hasn’t worked in months. I think she knows you would appreciate seeing something fresh.”
The basement seemed smaller with the tall man in it. Samuel walked closer and stood in the doorway, blocking Julie in with the still working Mrs. Bradley.
“When Mr. Bradley gave me the letter to send to you, I knew it was a bad idea. I told him there would be too much explaining. But you know how old men can be. I think he wants his wife to get her due credit for all she’s done over the years.”
Julie felt cornered and scared.
“Let me and my husband leave and I won’t tell anyone about your scam.”
“Scam?” Samuel said. “I’m not sure I understand what you’re implying.”
“You’re trying to pass off fake paintings.”
Samuel’s laughter filled the basement. With his mouth open wide, Julie noticed his elongated teeth.
“I apologize for finding humor when you are being so serious. Your reasoning is logical. I guess after living here for so long I’m surprised when people assume that all can be explained so simply. Please allow me to formally introduce you two. Mrs. Bradley, this is Julie. Julie, this is Mrs. Bradley. But you’ll probably know her better by her maiden name: Maria North.”
Mrs. Bradley turned towards Julie. Her eyes were half shut and she looked as she did lying on the cot: near death. She extended a frail hand towards Julie and spoke through soft, short breaths.
Guided by shock and fear, Julie gently shook the hand that was offered her.
As Mrs. Bradley turned back to her work, Julie experienced a short blast of vertigo and lost her balance. She stumbled against the wall, trying to stay on her feet.
Struggling, Julie could do nothing to loosen Samuel’s grip as he dragged her up the stairs and through the kitchen. Kicking the wheelchair out of the way they went out the front door and stepped off the porch; rain instantly soaked them. Thunder and lightning clashed every few seconds and the wind blew Julie’s hair in every direction.
“Let me go, you creep!” Julie shouted. “Dave! Dave, help me!”
They reached the barn and Samuel kicked open the door. Inside he turned on the bare bulb. The barn was still empty except for a large tub in the center of the room.
“I told Mr. Bradley it would come to this.” Samuel said. “I told him you and your husband would never leave this place. We mustn’t bring undue attention to ourselves.”
“People know we’re here, they’ll come looking for us.”
“Let them look, there won’t be anything to find.”
Julie was thrown into the tub. The ceiling of the barn came to life as bats descended and began circling above her. They swooped down, letting their hairy, leathery wings graze across Julie’s head. Curling up tightly, Julie screamed as the bats landed on the sides of the tub.
“They like you.” Samuel said laughing. “They usually won’t eat unless their victim’s already hurt. I guess they can tell that psychologically, you are.”
Julie could feel the bats on all sides. One dropped down and bit at her leg. She kicked at it and jumped out of the tub.
“They do like a fight, but the tub helps us not waste a drop.” Samuel said, grabbing her. “Let me help you…accept your circumstances.”
Julie watched as Samuels’s teeth grew larger. His eyes clouded to black as his teeth sunk into her neck. The bats took to the air, as if in respect for what was happening. Releasing his grip, Samuel let Julie fall back into the tub.
“She is yours!” He shouted to the group overhead. “A gift from me to you.”
The bats filled the tub on top of Julie. Hundreds of razor sharp teeth cut at her body, while beating wings slapped her from all sides.
A loud crash outside caused the barn to shake. The momentarily frightened predators returned to their perch on the ceiling while Samuel opened the door and exited the barn.
Watching the bats to make sure they weren’t going to attack again, Julie got out of the tub and walked to the open door. The beast that was here husband was fighting with another grey-haired beast. Again they crashed into the wall, causing the barn to shake. Samuel stood to the side, watching the fight unfold; he glanced over at Julie and smiled sardonically.
The beasts fell to the ground and rolled close to where Julie stood. As she took a few steps back she felt a pitchfork under her feet. The grey beast got the advantage and held her husband down. Howling, the grey beast barred its teeth and prepared to inflict a fatal blow.
Acting on instinct, Julie picked up the pitchfork and drove it deep into the grey beast’s back. Given the upper hand, the beast that was her husband rolled the grey beast over and bit off the side of its neck.
“Nooo!” Samuel ran and pushed Dave off the wounded beast.
Julie watched as her husband’s form returned to normal. Looking over she saw Samuel holding the dying beast in his arms. As its grey hairs faded and its shape changed, she saw the beast was Preston Bradley.
Dave shook his head trying to figure out how he had ended up naked outside again. Looking at his wife, he saw her neck sprouted blood and she was covered in tiny cuts. To his left Dave saw Samuel holding the dead Preston Bradley.
“Julie, what’s going on?”
“You’ll suffer for this!” Samuel yelled, running and diving on top of Dave.
Dave struggled against Samuels grip, but couldn’t break loose.
“After you, I’ll kill your wife. You’ll both die in pain!”
Over Samuels shoulder, Dave saw Julie’s hand was at her neck and she was unsteady on her feet.
Samuel bent forward to finish Dave off in the same way Dave had finished off Preston; by biting off the side of his neck.
Julie grabbed Samuel by the hair and pulled his head back. Samuel felt the strength of Julie’s grip and cursed himself for being so foolish. Opening her mouth wide, Julie dug her teeth deep into Samuels’s neck, causing a waterfall of blood to spill out over Dave.
Julie refused to respond to any of Dave’s frantic questions as they went into the house to get their backpacks. She would give him all the answers she could later on; now wasn’t the time. As Dave quickly dressed, Julie stood calm and secure: they were finally leaving.
They walked through the empty first floor and out onto the porch. Julie felt her neck and it was smooth. Walking into the yard, she held out her arms and let the rain wash away the red stains. The bite marks were gone; leaving her skin soft and unblemished.
A clear patch in the clouds bathed her in moonlight.
“You’re pale, sweetheart. Do you feel all right?” Dave said as he walked towards his wife. He stepped under the moonlight and winced shortly. Breathing deeply, he felt a strange strength forming throughout his body.
“I really don’t think it’s safe to be walking in theses woods.” Dave said, scratching at his chest.
Julie watched as her husband’s features began to change.
“I don’t think we have to worry, Dave.”
Dave bent his head back and howled as Julie laughed into the night; moonlight glistening off her fangs.
In the basement of the Bradley house, Maria North finished her painting.