It's that time again for another installment of Flash Fiction Fridays. Today's flash fiction isn't for the faint of heart. I will introduce you to the monster in Once Upon a December Nightmare. If you missed the other flash fiction involving the characters from December Nightmare, then click here for "Departure," featuring Cassie and Mary, and here for "Honky Tonk Love," featuring Denise and James. And, if you want to learn the monster's origins, be sure to pick up a copy of Pill Hill Press's Bloody Carnival in September.
Their stomping had awoken it, and it was starving. It smelled them before it saw them. Reeking of sweat and dirt, the ten Confederate soldiers marched single file through the forest. They followed a game trail, and it almost smiled at the thought of hunting them. Darting between shadows, the half-man, half-beast creature stalked them and planned its attack.
A branch snapped in the woods, and the soldiers froze.
"What do you think that was, Captain Jarrell?" The young soldier had a baby face and wide eyes.
"An animal or somethin'. We must keep moving, men, if we're goin' to make it into West Virginian territory before mornin'." Captain Jarrell muttered something about the "damn" West Virginians, but the creature didn't understand the words.
They continued, and the monster followed. The army men's footsteps slowed, and the Captain ordered a short break.
It crept closer to the men as the troop split up. A breeze rustled the tree limbs. The beast glanced at the leaf canopy and the diamond sparkles filtering in through it. It didn't need starlight to see its prey, but it helped. The creature breathed in, sniffing a soldier upwind. The sweat scent was stronger, muskier, and masculine. It could imagine the blood rushing through the man's veins.
It attacked with swiftness and precision. The soldier didn't have a chance to open his mouth to cry out. Blood gushed from the throat wound, and it drank like a glutton while chewing on his flesh.
Momentarily sated, it waited for its next kill.
"Do you think the plan will work?" One man asked another. A thin stream of urine pooled onto the ground.
"Assassinating Lincoln? Yeah, it'll work. He's giving a speech, and we'll be there." The other man pulled up his pants. "We'll end this war and be heroes." He patted the other guy on the back and weaved in and out of the trees.
He was the next to die.
One by one, it hunted and ate. Its belly bulged pleasantly, and it couldn't remember feeling so full.
"Captain, the others are missing," the baby-faced private said.
Jarrell called his men. No one came.
"Do you think something got them?" He clutched his weapon to his chest and trembled.
"How old are you, boy? You can't be of age actin' like a pansy. Man up." Jarrell popped the boy on the side of the head.
Knowing he would get into trouble for being fifteen, he didn't state his age. He shrank away from the captain when he spotted the creature. "Captain! There!" He pointed toward a great oak tree.
While the captain turned around, it appeared. A low growl erupted from its bloody lips, and it ran toward them.
Jarrell stood and raised his weapon. Thunder roared from the rifle and smoke drifted from it, but the bullet missed the hairy beast by inches.
It bowled the captain over, and the rifle dropped to the ground. Its jaws opened, revealing dagger-like fangs, and it bit the captain.
The private shrieked, dropped his rifle, and ran away like a rabbit being chased by a fox.
It ate the captain slowly, savoring its meal and disposing all evidence of the men. They would search for the creature but not find it.
And, it would wait and grow hungry.