Into the Darkness

by Tom Hadley

Thomas HadleyWord Count: 7,500

9248 FM 96

Atlanta, Texas 75551

(903) 796-2588

INTO THE DARKNESS

By Thomas Hadley

1

Through the darkness he ran, the sweat pouring from his body as he hurried deeper into the forest. The hair on the back of his neck, telling him it was near. He could hear the distant howl as it closed the gap, he suddenly swerved left heading toward the cabin in the distance. He had traveled this path many times and knew it by heart, yet tonight he was driven, the fear pushing his aching body forward. Suddenly he could see the distant lights of the cabin, not far now he thought as he picked up speed with a renewed energy. "I will make it, I will," he suddenly tripped on a hidden root, tumbling into the brush like a rag doll.

The creature was closer he could hear the rocks crunching from the feet as it drew nearer. "Please help me," he called out, hoping beyond hope someone would hear his feeble cries. Suddenly all noise stopped. He waited scared to move, the seconds turned to minutes. Slowly he looked around, all was quiet. "Could it be possible that it passed me by?" He started to feel hope, from where he lay he could see the cabin lights not 500 feet away.

He slowly got to his feet looking around and started toward the cabin. He was close now, very close. With a sudden spurt he reached the cabin and slammed the door as he entered, sliding the locks in place he fell against it, his whole body shivering. He started to laugh, a laughter born out of despair.

He retrieved the rifle from its place over the mantel, checking to make sure it was loaded. Going to the window he peered out cautiously watching the path from which he had just came. He was a good shot, a marksman with many years behind the gun, he was confidant that if it showed itself then he could kill it.

He had lived here for many years retreating from society, he had lived in the forest and hunted and camped. He was at home here, his nearest neighbor over 20 miles away.

His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the sound of a rock being kicked along the road. Staring intently into the darkness he strained to see any little movement, any at all, the fear returning, washing over his body. Clutching the rifle tighter he slowly unlocked the door and edged out into the night.

With his back against the cabin he felt comfort knowing nothing would come from behind. Another sound, this time closer, drawing his attention straight ahead. There was something there, coming straight toward him. Raising the rifle he steadied himself. Closer it moved toward him, not hurrying, but a casual walk with no fear, no remorse.

He could see it moving toward him, it was unlike any animal he had ever seen. It had the body of lion, and an almost apish face about it, but what drew his attention were the claws, they had to be a foot long with razor sharp points. It walked on all fours slowly toward him.

It was now only about a hundred yards away, he yelled at it. "Go away, please go away," yet it didn't seemed to notice as it walked forward, coming ever closer. Now about 50 feet away it stopped, its eyes boring into him, causing a new round of fear to come forward.

He held the rifle ready his fingers turning white as the blood drained out of them. As the creature started forward he fired. The creature stopped and he thought for a second that it might run away, but instead it started forward once again. He fired again with no effect; the creature was continuing to move forward. Again and again he fired until he heard the click from the empty rifle.

Fear paralyzed him; he dropped the rifle and fell back against the door. The last thought he had before being ripped apart was of the claws, those dreadful claws.

2

"Morning Tom," said Betty Jean, the tall blonde sitting behind the counter. At 38 Jean could still turn a few heads, he had heard that she was sleeping with Bill the night deputy, looking at her he thought, "Damn to be so lucky," "Night reports on your desk sheriff, nothing exciting, the usually, old John Appleton got drunk and Larry put him in cell three to sleep it off. Why don't we just move him in there permanently," she laughed.

"Nope, county could afford it," he smiled and walked back to his office closing the door. At 53 Tom Huston was still a handsome man, at six four and 210 pounds he carried himself well. He loved this job, been here for four years now and just loved it. Thinking back to four years ago when he was a homicide detective with the big metropolitan division in Denver. The countless homicides, the job took its toll, he started drinking, lost his wife, he would sit home with his gun on the table and just stare at it for hours until the booze numbed his brain and he fell a sleep.

Then this job a fellow detective told him about. "Yea Tom, that is what you need, a cushy sheriffs job in Altoona, middle of nowhere, no crime, biggest headache you would have is arresting stray dogs," That was fours years ago, and he hadn't looked back since, the drinking stopped, and finally he was happier than he could ever remember.

Yes Altoona was now home to him, with its eight-man police force, biggest incident he had since being here was Phil Adams, a local farmer who went off the deep end and killed his wife, slashed her up like a Christmas turkey before shooting himself in the head. That was three years ago and still the town talked about it.

The door opening interrupted his thoughts and Betty Jean walking in. "Here's your coffee Tom," she placed it on the desk next to the report folder. As she was leaving she stopped. "Ellen wants you to come over for dinner Thursday night, says she is cooking your favorite" Betty Jean laughed as she left the office. "Ellen McCabe," Tom thought. The local historian or better known as "Black Widow" McCabe. People still debate over how her husband had died. Some say poisoning, other say he just died of a heart attack. Either way he wanted no part of her. Picking up the folder he started to read.

Bob Johnson was making his local rounds when he was suddenly flagged down. Rolling down his window as the man approached. "Morning deputy," "What can I do for you Pete," Johnson asked. "You know Ken Berry", he asked. "Yea, he lives out about 30 miles, past Johnson creek," "Well, I got a delivery for him he ordered about three weeks ago, some steel traps and some new fangled hunting scope. Think you could take it out to him, I'd be much appreciative," Pete asked. "I guess I could, just put it in the back," Bob said. "Thanks again deputy," he said as he walked away and waved.

"Unit three to dispatch," he said. "Dispatch here." Betty Jean's voice echoed over the radio. "I'm going over to Ken Berry's place off Johnson creek, Pete Alders had a delivery and I said I would take it over for him," "10-4 Bob, when you get back, you can take me to lunch," Betty laughed. "It's a date."

Smiling to himself, Bob started down route 52 toward Johnson creek, "Life is good," he thought.

Thirty-five minutes later he crossed Johnson creek and turned left on dusty rural route 8. "This Ken Berry was a strange one," he thought. "Nam Viet, two purple hearts, special operations, I guess he has seen a lot and just decided to live way out here," thought Bob. Slowing the patrol car down and pulling up to the cabin he blew the horn. When no one came out he got out of the car and lets when it hit him. A sudden damp coldness as fear started to creep up on him. Dropping his hand to his holster he looked around. "Get a grip," he thought. Looking around he noticed the cabin door open and a dark stain on the side of the cabin.

Slowly walking to the cabin the stain became brighter and this is when he noticed the deep scars on the side of the cabin wall. Reaching down he touched the stain and held it up for inspection. "My God, this is blood," he said. Running back to the car he unlatched the shotgun from its cradle, and grabbed for the radio.

Tom was just getting up to go to lunch when Betty rushed into his office. Looking into her eyes, he suddenly had a bad feeling. "Bob Johnson just called in," she hurriedly spoke. "Says he's at Ken Berry's place out off route 8, says you better come quick."

3

Tom walked out to his car and started down 52 out of town. "Unit one to unit three, come in three," he said. "Unit three here, sheriff. Hearing the breaking voice over the radio, his heart started beating quicker. "What the hell's going on, you got Betty Jean scared to death," he said. "Sheriff, there is blood all over the cabin wall," he stuttered. "Ok, I am on my way, don't touch anything until I get there," he said, as an after thought he added "Unit three, do you have your riot gun with you," he added. "Yes, I am holding it," he managed to say.

Driving toward the cabin Tom started to feel the panic creeping up on him. "Ok now," he said to himself "this isn't Denver, just relax," with that he pushed a little further down on the gas pedal. "Probably just deer blood, Ken Berry was a hunter, "Christ, could be anything," he thought.

Turning down RR 8 he slowed down. "Damn road, the county was suppose to pave it three years ago," he slowed further choking back the dust settling in the window. Finally he spotted the deputies car ahead and pulled next to it. Leaving his vehicle he felt a slow cold chill run through him.

He noticed that Bob was holding the shotgun tightly clenched in his fist. "Bob, show me what you go," he said. The deputy walked slowly to the cabin. "This is what I found when I got here sheriff," he said. Tom surveyed the scene before him. Bending down he felt the blood and held it up. The cold chill returned. Looking at the cabin wall he ran his hand over the deep marks in the wood.

"What you think sheriff, a bear?" he asked. Ignoring him Tom took a pencil out of his pocket and poked it into one of the deep claw marks. Walking into the cabin he walked over to the wall and saw the pencil sticking through. Walking back out he noticed his palms were sweaty. "That cabin is 10 inches thick," he thought, "solid oak, a bear couldn't do that," "Ok, Bob, lets walk around a little and see what else is here," with that he started to walk around the cabin.

About ten minutes later he heard Bob's excited voice yelling out. "Sheriff, over here," Tom quickly ran down the road to where his deputy was bending over an object laying in the brush. Bending down Tom examined the discarded rifle, now with its barrel bent in half. He withdrew a pair of latex gloves from his pocket and picked up the now useless rifle.

"Damn," he thought "What could have done that," He checked the magazine and confirmed it was empty. Whatever Ken Berry saw, he must of got a few shots at it, and from what little he knew about Ken Berry, he thought he must of hit it. "Ok Bob, let's start a grid search, fan out about 30 yards and work back toward the cabin," Both men started walking in the brush back toward the cabin.

About half way back Tom noticed a red patch on the ground next to a big oak tree. Bending down he examined the area. "More blood," he thought. Tom felt a drop on his neck, standing up he wiped it off and noticed it was red. Looking up he felt a sick feeling, starting in the pit of his stomach. There hanging by a vine, about thirty feet up was Ken Berry or what was left of him.

It was now ten thirty at night, the cabin had been sealed and police tape strung, three other deputies' were now present. The doctor had arrived and taken the body back to town. Portable lights were set up and the area sealed off. Nothing else was found after an intensive search of the surrounding area.

Suddenly he jumped when the radio crackled to life. "Unit one, dispatch," Betty Jean's voice sounded. Picking up the radio Tom Responded. "Unit One, what do you have Betty," he asked. "Sheriff, I have the file you requested on Ken Berry, just faxed over from Fort Bragg," she said. "Ok, I am heading in, just leave it on the desk, and Betty go get some sleep," he told her.

Before leaving he cautioned the other deputy's to stay alert. Arriving a little after midnight back in the office he walked into his office and sat down and started reading the file of Ken Berry lying on his desk. The more he read the sickening he became. "Two Purple hearts, special forces, two tours in Nam, special operations group," a lot was blacked out. "Classified, I bet," thought Tom. This file told Tom that Ken Berry was not a man to have fled in fear; he could take care of himself that was for sure. "Who or what could of done this," he asked himself.

Closing the folder, he walked to the door, shutting the lights off, and heading to his car to go home. He noticed his hands were shaking as he got into his car.

At six AM Tom returned to the office. Checking on the men at the cabin, he was relieved to hear that nothing further happened during the night. At 8 AM Betty Jean arrived and made a fresh pot of coffee. "Betty, I am heading over to the FBI lab in Denver, call me if anything comes up," he said. Walking to the freezer he retrieved the sample he had taken the night before.

Driving to Denver he glanced at the bag lying besides him. "Maybe the boys at the FBI lab can come up with something," he hoped. Two hours later he arrived in downtown Denver and parked at the federal building. Having worked homicide he had worked with the FBI before and knew most of the local agents. One in particular he liked. Special agent Dan Fellows, he was sharp and an expert in piecing together crime scenes.

Sitting in the lobby he heard a familiar voice. "Do my eyes deceive me, why it's Andy Taylor," he laughed. Dan walked over and shook Tom's hand. "I thought I would never see you again, you left this town in a hurry," he said. "Dan, I need your help," he said. Dan looked into Tom's eyes and knew something was bothering him deeply.

Dan led Tom to his office on the 3rd floor and closed the door. An hour later after hearing Tom's story, Dan leaned back in his chair. "Sounds to me like you have a mad man loose out there," he said. Tom handed Ken Berry's file over. "Now read this file on the victim," he said. Tom said nothing as Dan read the entire file. Finally Dan put the folder down. "Dam," was all he said.

Tom handed over the evidence bag with the sample in it. Dan picked up the phone and dialed an extension. "Kate, Dan here, I have a special request, could you look at a sample for me quick?" "Okay, I own you a dinner" he laughed. He got up and lead Tom to the basement floor, they walked down to a door marked Forensic Lab and entered.

The first thing Tom noticed was a stunning blonde dressed in a white lab coat. "Kate, this is Tom Houston, an old cop like me," he made the introductions. "He doesn't look old to me," she said. Tom felt himself blushing. Kate led them to her office and got them some coffee. An hour later after doing her testing she returned to her office to see Dan and Tom deep in conversation.

"Okay, What's the joke," she smiled. But looking into Tom's eyes she was sorry she had said that. "You better start from the beginning and fill me in," An hour later Kate sat back thinking. "Well I analyzed the blood sample, and honesty I don't have a clue what it is. It is almost human, yet it's not, and not exactly animal either." I want to take a sample over to the Zoology department at the museum to a friend. Doctor Pam Henry. She is the best I know and if anyone can tell what this is, then she is the one," Kate said.

Dan and Tom looked at one another and neither spoke, lost in their own thoughts. On the way back to Altoona, Tom reflected on today's discoveries. "Not human, not animal," he thought. "What the hell is it?" he was silent for the rest of the trip home, but he couldn't seem to shake the cold feeling tugging at the back of his neck.

4

Arriving back in town he stopped by the office. It was well past 10 by now and the office was deserted. He walked into his office and after checking that no new incidents occurred, locked up and headed home.

Arriving at the office at 6 AM, he was greeted by Betty Jean. "You look like hell sheriff," she said. "And good morning to you," Tom said. It was two o'clock, the morning had been spent wrapping up the crime scene and the deputies had returned to their normal routine. At three his office phone rang. "Tom, Burt Wilson here," Burt was the town's doctor and coroner. "I am finished the preliminary on Ken Berry," "I am on my way over," he cut Burt off.

Burt had practiced medicine for 25 years, the old country doctor who still made house calls and checked on the town's elderly every week. "All I can tell you Tom, is that Ken died sometime between 6 Pm and 8 AM, he died from a massive trauma, he was literary torn to pieces," The doctor continued. "The wounds are straight almost scalpel quality but the marks near the wounds are rough, like some type of claw," he finished. "Could a bear make them," he asked absent-mindedly. "No Tom, I have seen bear wounds, nothing even close to this, sorry, but that is all I can tell you," he finished.

Thanking the doctor he returned to his office. He noticed the new blackboard he ordered sitting against the wall. After wheeling it into his office he started writing. Fifteen minutes later he sat back and looked at it.

Subject: Ken Berry

White male 47 years

  6 feet tall, 200 pounds

Claw marks in cabin at least 9" deep

30 06 rifle with barrel bent in half

Magazine empty

Hanging 30 feet in the air

Body skinned

No blood trail

No footprints

Tom studied the chart for a half hour, but the more he studied it the more hopeless it became. Finally he got up and headed home.

His sleep was disturbed by the sound of the phone. "Tom Huston," he spoke quietly. "I'm sorry to wake you sheriff, this Is Kate Thompson, we met today," she said. Instantly Tom was wide-awake. "I am heading down your way tomorrow with Dr. Pam Henry, if you don't mind, I have some new developments, I will fill you in tomorrow," she said.

Returning to bed Tom tried to go back to sleep, but his mind was filled with the past few days' events, and he lay there with his eyes opened. Looking over he made sure his 9mm Glock lay on the table within easy reach.

Returning to the office at 6, he was greeted by Betty Jean. "Sheriff you have two visitors in your office, one is from the FBI," she whispered. Tom walked into his office to greet his visitors. Kate spoke first. "Sheriff Huston, this is Dr, Henry I told you about. After getting coffee and settling down, doctor Henry started speaking. "Sheriff, I ran a whole spectrum of the sample Kate brought me, and to be honest, I can't tell you much. The blood isn't human or at least not as we know it, it seems to be almost a combination of two species. The closest thing we have in the data base is some type of relative to the ape family," she said.

"You mean an ape did this?" he asked in astonishment. "I didn't say an ape, I said the closest thing we have that is even closely similar. To be honest, this is a whole new species; we have never seen anything like it. I sent samples to the Smithsonian in Washington DC, and so far, to be honest we just don't know what it is," she finished.

"I would like to see the crime scene if possible," Kate asked. "I want you to understand one thing Tom," she continued. "This is your case, and the bureau has agreed to let me act as liaison, if you don't mind that is," she added quickly. Tom looked at the two women. "I'm not afraid to admit it Kate, this is way beyond me, and any help I can get I would really appreciate," he said. "This is way beyond any of us," Kate added.

Driving out to the cabin Tom was consumed with his thoughts. "How could this be possible?" he said." "A creature emerging out of nowhere to lay claim to his community," he thought. "Not as strange as you may think sheriff," Pam Henry said. "Over forty five new species are found weekly in the rainforest of Brazil," she added. " Science isn't exact, Lets say the largest snake ever found was thirty feet in length. We tend to believe that this is the world's largest, and then a week later a thirty-five foot snake is found. We can only base our understanding on what we have as a reference," she said.

"We aren't in Brazil doctor, we are in Colorado," Tom replied. "New animals just don't pop up out of nowhere," he added. "I agree that this is very unusual, but not impossible," Pam said. "Look where we are, Denver sits on the great Devine, the Rockies are a vast area, we have hundreds of miles of rugged terrain, areas I venture to say that has never seen a human foot print.

We are on a scientific breakthrough here, if we could capture this animal, think of the research and knowledge we could gain?" "Now wait just a minute," Tom quipped. "We are dealing with a wild and unpredictable animal that has already killed," he said. "I think doctor, the last thing that will happen, is that we will try to capture this thing," Tom spoke. "You don't know if this thing is dangerous, imagine a new animal, coming upon humans for the first time, it is probably scared, and this man provoked it, it is just defending itself, I don't think you understand the importance here sheriff." Pam stated.

5

The rest of the journey was made in silence. Pulling up and exiting the car, all three made their way to the cabin, ducking under the police tape. Doctor Henry immediately went to examine the ragged claw marks in the cabin wall. Kate and Tom walked slowly into the clearing. "Tom," Kate began. "What made you come out here, in the middle of nowhere? Dan told me you were a first rate homicide detective in Denver, why come out here?" she asked.

Tom looked into those deep blue eyes, and for a second was lost in speech. "Kate," he said quietly. "I am burned out, I can't take the violence any more," he said honestly. Kate looked at him sadly. "Maybe you are the smart one," she whispered and walked off toward the cabin. Rejoining the two women Tom heard Pam talking to Kate. "He is the typical cop," she said "All he wants to do is kill something he doesn't understand," Noticing Tom's arrival she fell silent.

"Well doctor?" he asked. "This is amazing." She started. "The claw marks are evenly spaced at ten centimeters apart, the height and penetration suggest a large animal, maybe five feet tall, maybe six or seven hundred pounds," she said. "What makes you think that doctor," he asked. "See those marks there," she pointed out. "The curvature and depth can only mean something with considerable size behind it could do this." She stated.

"I would like to see where the body was found," doctor Henry said. Turning back toward the road, a sudden cold feeling swept over Tom. The hairs on the back of his neck started to bristle. He quickly reached down to his holster placing his hand on the glock. Sweeping the area with his eyes, he had the distinct feel they were being watched. Kate noticed the movement. "What is it Tom," she asked quietly. Tom momentarily ignored her straining to see into the thick under brush.

"Tom, what is it," she repeated again. "I guess nothing," he said. Looking into his eyes, Kate wasn't so sure. Heading back to the car he retrieved the shotgun from the cradle. Checking to make sure it was loaded, he turned to the women. "This way," he said and they started off down the road.

Reaching the big oak tree Tom stopped. "The body was hanging up there," he said. The ground was still stained with dark spots of blood. Kate noticed that Tom's hands were turning white from clutching the shotgun and he was constantly scanning the area. Suddenly they heard a noise to their left. Tom spun around with the shotgun at the ready. "Relax sheriff," Pam said. "Just a deer or something." She said. Tom walked over into the brush where the sound was heard. Walking about ten feet into the tangled undergrowth he noticed a bedding area, maybe three feet square where something had previously laid.

Bending down he noticed a few of the leaves had fresh salvia on them. The two women joined him. Pam noticed the wetness on the leaves. "I will be right back, I need to take a sample of this," she said and off she hurried toward the car.

"It was here Kate," he said. "My God, it was watching us the whole time," Suddenly a scream erupted in the direction of the police car. "No," he yelled as he spun and started sprinting toward the car, with Kate on his heels. Coming into the clearing they saw it. It stood upright leaning over Pam's body. Tom immediately reacted and fired three shots at the thing less than twenty yards away. The sound of the gunshots adding a surreal imagine to the scene.

The creature turned in their direction, then suddenly made a sprint and was gone. They both ran up to the body on the ground. Pam had been ripped wide-open, blood still pouring from the wounds.

It was now well after midnight. Pam's body had been taken away. Tom and Kate were sitting in the sheriff's office. A bottle of Scotch was sitting on the desk half empty. "It wasn't your fault Tom," she said. "We didn't know," was all Kate could manage to say. "We have to stop this thing Kate," Tom said "By God, what ever it takes, we have to stop it," he repeated.

"I know someone Tom, I worked a missing person's case with him a few years ago. His name is White Raven he is a tracker. He found those kids, tracked them right down. We have used him on a few cases," she said. "Can we get him Kate," he asked. "Oh, we will get him," she answered.

The following afternoon White Raven arrived at the sheriff's office. Kate made the introductions. White Raven listened silently until they were finished. "If you want my help on this sheriff, then I need to do this my way," he said. "Whatever you need," Tom said. "I need to get a few things, and I will meet you here tomorrow morning. Only you and Kate and myself, no one else," as Tom started to protest, Raven held up his arm. "Sheriff, there are things out there that are evil, and I must insist on this. You both have been touched by this evil," he said as he looked deep into their eyes.

"You must face this evil to cleanse your soul," he continued. "To become whole, you must do this." With that Raven turned and left the office. Tom and Kate looked at one another; no words were needed, as both knew in their hearts that Raven was right. The rest of the afternoon was spent gathering equipment. Kate spent an hour on the phone to the bureau. Tom returned to his home to get gear.

At Six AM the following morning Tom arrived to find that Kate and Raven were both there. Tom noticed Raven's 4-wheel drive was loaded with supplies. Tom threw his gear into the back of Raven's truck and they climbed in. The journey lasted a little oven an hour. Each lost in thoughts of what was to become.

Arriving at the cabin, they climbed out. Tom started to show Raven the crime scene. "Sheriff, I will look around and see for myself, you and Kate unload the truck," he said. With that Raven started down the road. "Wait" Tom shouted out. "You aren't armed," he said. "Sheriff, I'm armed with all I need." with that Raven disappeared down the road.

It was a little after 2 when Raven returned. The equipment was stacked neatly inside the cabin. Kate was cooking and Tom was gathering wood for the fire. They all sat down to eat lunch. Raven looked at them and spoke. "The evil is here," he said. "I feel it and you both do also, it is still here and close. It kills not for food or pleasure, it kills because it is driven to, it is the last of its kind and it is tired of searching. It will make its stand here," he said. "Can we kill it," Tom asked. "I put three slugs into it at less than twenty yards and it didn't seem to phase it," he said.

"We have to," was all Raven said. The rest of the day was spent mapping out and setting up equipment. Kate retrieved a large suitcase from the equipment and opened it. Inside were four poles about 2 feet long with telescopic legs. "What's that," Tom asked. Kate retrieved one and opened the legs and set it on the floor, to Tom it looked like a camera tripod. "This is ground radar, with infrared motion detectors, and built in cameras we place them about 50 yards on each side of the cabin, anything comes within one hundred yards we will know and see it." She finished. Tom retrieved a package from his equipment, and opened it. "Claymores," Kate remarked.

By seven all the equipment was in place, and the three sat at the table drinking coffee. It was just starting to turn dark outside. "What do we do if it doesn't come," Tom asked. Raven looked closely at them both. "It will come," was all he said. Kate was sitting at the table and Tom was inspecting another package he had just opened.

Inside was a short looking gun with a large barrel. "Tear gas?" Kate asked. "Not exactly," Tom said as he broke open the barrel and inserted a rather large projectile in to it. "This is an M20 Grenade launcher," he stated "And this is a WP or Willy Peter round, which is basically a napalm round." He said. Kate just looked at him. "You are full of surprises," she said.

Raven just looked at them and said nothing, then returning to stare out the window into the failing light. Kate went back to studying the screen in front of her. Suddenly Raven announced. "It is here," Kate and Tom looked at him. Kate studied the screen, but nothing was shown. "I'm afraid you are," that is all she managed before the screen started to erupt in low-keyed beeps.

"There," Kate said. All eyes were on the screen. The screen reflected an eerie green glow. The screen showed the creature slowly moving in. "Just a little closer," whispered Tom. The creature moved closer stopping within two feet of the hidden trip wires attached to the Claymore mines. The creature slowly walked along the path of the hidden wires, never crossing them.

"Come on, Come on," Tom whispered. The creature just walked back and forth as through sensing the danger hidden there. Almost like it was deciding what to do next. All eyes were fixed on the screen waiting for its next move. The creature lowered itself and started to gently paw the ground. Every so slowly it exposed the wires and started tracking them back it the attached mines.

"I'll be damned", Kate whispered. The creature now gently turned the mine around pointing toward their location. It proceeded to uncover and turn the other mines around as well. Finally satisfied, the creature took hold of the wires and pulled. "Get down," Tom yelled as he dragged Kate to the floor. The massive explosion sent hundreds of steel ball bearings heading toward the cabin. The cabin walls above their heads erupted in splintering wood.

6

"Is everyone ok," Tom asked. All acknowledged their presence. They stood up and looked around. The massive ball bearings had entered the cabin above their heads. Kate's radar screen was totally smashed. Raven quickly lit the candles bringing light into the now ruined cabin. "I don't believe this" Kate said. "How could it have known," she shivered. Tom was quiet as he put his arms around Kate holding her. Raven quietly got up and left the cabin.

When he returned Tom still had his arms wrapped around Kate. "It is gone now," he said. "Tomorrow we go after it," he quietly said. For the reminder of the night, Tom held Kate as she leaned back against his shoulder. Tom had the M20 on his lap pointed at the door.

With daylight starting to break, they were surveying the damage, all items above two feet were damaged, and the equipment stacked on the floor was safe. Kate had managed to fry some eggs and made some coffee. After breakfast they gathered up their packs and started out. Tom had the M20, Kate with her M16 and Raven unarmed except for the hunting knife he carried. They followed Raven about a hundred yards to the creek where he stopped. He bent down to study the moist grass at the creek's edge. "We go this way," he announced and started walking across the creek.

On the other side Raven started up the hill. Reaching the top he stopped and scanned the area. The country ahead was rugged, littered with caves and thick foliage. Raven started down. They traveled for about an hour when Raven stopped. Up a head was a large cave dug into the side of the hill. Raven studied this for ten minutes. "This is where he lives," Raven said. Tom and Kate slowly approached Raven. "Stay here," Raven said and proceeded forward into the cave. About ten minutes later Raven emerged beckoning them forward. Tom lit the lantern and they started into the cave. The light reflected off the cave walls casting the cave into an eerie yellow.

"Look," Kate pointed. They walked to the cave walls and saw small animals engraved into it. The pictures were of the two creatures along side each other. "My God," Kate said. "It is searching for its mate, the loneliness it must feel." She spoke. Raven studied the crude drawings and walked further into the cave, "This is where it sleeps," he said. Both Tom and Kate stared down at the ground. The old red blanket was stretched out on the ground below. Ken's backpack laid open next to it.

There were a dozen or so cans neatly opened and empty scattered around the pack. Tom searched the pack but nothing else was visible. A broken mirror lay near the pack. The scrape marks clearly shown across its face. Tom and Kate looked at one another, but neither spoke. Walking back into the sunlight Tom noticed Kate was crying. Tom comforted her. The tears were streaking down her face as she spoke. "What is this thing," She wept. "We have no right to kill it, it is just searching for its mate." She cried. Tom gently put his hand around her and held her close.

"We have to," Raven spoke quietly. "It will keep on killing until we stop it," he said. "It is out of hope, it knows it is the last of its kind, it doesn't want to go on any longer," he said. "They why the hell did it try to kill us last night," Tom asked angrily. "It sees us as its last challenge in life, It wants to die, and take us with it," he said. "Enough of this," Tom spoke. He reached inside his backpack and brought out his cell phone. "I am getting us some help here," he said. Tom started to dial when the phone was taken from him and bashed on the rocks.

Tom looked up at Raven while getting to his feet. "You don't get it yet sheriff, do you? Only we can defeat this thing, more help will only drive it somewhere else to kill. No we have to do this alone, as we were chosen." He said. ""What the hell are you talking about chosen," Tom screamed. "Think about it sheriff, it could of killed us any time it wanted to.

It could of come in the cabin after the explosion, but it didn't. It wanted us alive for a reason," he said. "I see no reason," Tom started to speak, but Kate stopped him. "I think I understand," she said. "It wants us, no needs us to help it die. It doesn't want to live anymore, and if it killed us, then who would help it die? In its own way it wants us to be worthy enough to be the ones," she finished. Raven just shook his head. "So this is a game, a contest." Asked Tom.

Raven looked at them both and slowly said. "Not us, just you two, it picked you both, not me. I was the wild card. It doesn't need me," Raven finished. Tom and Kate just looked into Raven's face. Neither spoke as they realized what he said was true. "I feel no fear," Raven said. "My time is near, I have known that since I arrived here," "Then why didn't you just leave then," Tom asked. Raven looked at them and smiled. "I have been dead for a long time, my time is up, I have cheated death many times. It is time for me to join my ancestors. I cannot destroy this thing. It can only be done by both of you," he finished and walked away.

For a long time neither Tom or Kate spoke, both looked out over the horizon lost in their own emotions. Raven had taken the medicine bag from his chest and was sprinkling the contents on to the rock. He sat down and started to chant. "I go no further with you, your journey is set, and you know what you must do." He said. "Raven," Kate spoke. "Come with us, we need you, we cannot do this alone," she pleaded. "Go now," Raven said pointing down into the valley.

Slowly Kate walked over to Raven and put her hand on his shoulder. "I have no words," she then started down the hill with Tom. Raven watched them until they were out of sight. "Good luck my friends," he whispered then he started to prepare himself for his fate. Ten minutes later Tom and Kate stopped as they heard a shrill cry coming from the top of the hill. Both looked back. Tom started to walk back the way they had come. "No Tom, don't," its over she said. Tom looked at her and slowly walked back to her side. "I am sorry Kate," Tom said. "I am sorry I dragged you into this mess," Kate slowly put her hand over Tom's mouth to silence him. They looked deep into each other's eyes, and Tom leaned over and kissed her, gently at first, then with a deep passion that they both felt.

7

"When this is over Kate, I want you to marry me, I have searched for so long, I know I love you, and I think you love me," Kate silenced him. "There will be plenty of time later to talk about this Tom, but we must do this first." She said. Tom took Kate's hand and started forward with a renewed energy that he hadn't felt in years.

The sky was darkening as they stopped for the night. Tom spotted a small cave. Putting their packs into it, Tom went to gather wood for the fire. It was now dark with the fire burning. They both sat at the mouth of the cave, weapons at their sides. After eating some can food, they sat and stared into the fire. Kate leaned over and rested her head on his shoulder and whispered into his ear. "I love you to Tom," she said.

Suddenly they looked up to see the creature just outside of the fire. It was sitting watching them. Tom slowly reached for his weapon. The creature saw this and growled a low-pitched scream. Tom froze and moved his hand away. Kate was staring at the creature as if trying to read its thoughts. "What do you want of us," she said. The creature slowly got up and faced them. In a chilling half whisper it said "Tomorrow," and then turned and walked away.

Tom and Kate stared at each other, both not believing the creature had spoken. Neither said a word for the rest of the night. Morning broke early. Tom and Kate retrieved their packs and started down ward. An hour later they came to a large clearing with large rocks all around. Stopping they looked at each other and knew this was where it would end.

They both unloaded their packs in preparation. Tom and Kate climbed on top of the largest bolder and waited. Both had their weapons loaded and ready. Tom looked down into the clearing and thought of an arena where ancient gladiators had fought for life and death. Out of nowhere the creature appeared behind them, Kate gasped as Tom swing around, the creature lashed out and caught Kate by the shoulder hurling her down into the clearing.

Tom tried to turn but the creature was faster, knocking him down five feet into the rocks. Tom looked down to see Kate lying in the clearing not moving. Tom noticed his weapon lying four feet away in the rocks. He was bruised and his leg hurt like hell, looking down he saw the slash marks below the knee. He struggled and finally managed to sit up.

The creature was now in the clearing walking toward Kate. With all of his remaining strength, Tom managed to tumble from the rocks, grabbing his weapon and falling the rest of the way to the ground. The creature was now over Kate looking at her. Tom yelled. "Stay away from her, its me you want," he screamed.

The creature looked once again at Kate as if to finish her off, but stopped and slowly turned toward Tom. Two feet away laid the weapon. He crawled toward it. The creature charged. Tom used his remaining strength and dove, grabbing the weapon, turning and firing.

Springtime comes quickly to the mountains in Colorado, the cool breeze blowing in from the Rockies. Tom gently leaned over and kissed Kate's forehead as she slept in their bed. "I love you," he whispered as he walked out the door heading to the office.

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