The Hunt

📅 Published on July 16, 2021

“The Hunt”

Written by Chisto Healy
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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“We’ve been out here all day.  I don’t understand how we haven’t so much as seen the beast,”  William said from his seat on a fallen tree.  Birds cawed from somewhere off in the distance, but the woods were otherwise silent.  He sipped the ale in his canvas flask and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.  “How does a wolf that large hide?”

“It hides because it’s a demon,”  Dennis answered as he sat across from William, cleaning his rifle affectionately.  “It doesn’t belong to this world.  That monster lives in the darkness.  It is a creature that belongs to the Devil.”

Beside him, a third man, Peter, was sharpening his knife on a stone.  “It’s no demon, Dennis.  It’s a wolf, like any other, and its pelt will hang on my wall.  Mark my words.  “

“A wolf the size of a man is not like any other,”  Dennis snarled.  “That thing killed my brother.  No ordinary wolf could have taken Phillip apart like it did.  I’ve seen him take wolves down with his bare hands.  That thing tossed him around like a child’s doll.  It ripped him to pieces, Peter.  Only a monster could do such a thing.”  He took a hand off of his rifle to grasp the cross hanging around his neck.

“That’s why we’re here,”  William said.  “This isn’t sport.  Wolf or demon, that thing made this personal.  We’ll find it, Dennis.  Don’t worry.  We’ll find it, and we’ll kill it.  God is with us.  We’ve been hunting wolves for years.  We will win.”

Dennis stared down at the fire crackling between them as tendrils of flame whipped about like the limbs of a living thing.  “I don’t know that I believe that,”  he said.  “I think God left us when that thing arrived.  Nothing like that could live in God’s world.  The Lord has abandoned us.”

“Have faith, brother,”  Peter said.  “Evil exists in God’s world, but it doesn’t prevail.”

They stopped speaking and craned their necks simultaneously, listening intently as a howl sounded in the distance.  It was a sound that they were well accustomed to, but it was louder, deeper, bigger.

“This is it!”  Peter gripped his knife and stood, narrow eyes staring through the mass of never-ending trees.  Dennis hurried to load his rifle, fumbling about.

William set his flask down on the log beside him, grabbed his own rifle, and got to his feet, pushing a round into the chamber.  “Do you think that was him?”  he asked quietly.

Peter shook his head.  “There are many wolves in these woods.  How do we know?  It sounded big, real big, but I just don’t know.  How can we be sure?”

Dennis just stood poised, listening, his own ears perked like a fox.  He knew all about the hunt.  All these men did.  Wolf pelts made good coin.

Tense moments ticked by in silence.  Then there was a human scream, a long, drawn-out scream of obvious terror.  It was followed by a short cry of pain and a resounding silence.  “It came from the same direction,”  Dennis said.  “The beast is attacking someone again.  We have to put it down!”

He was off and running through the trees before the others could even respond to his statement.  Leaves crunched under his foot, and he clutched the rifle in his hand, prepared for battle.

“Be careful,”  Peter said, running behind him in a hurry to catch up.  “This thing is clever.  Wits are almost as dangerous as claws out here.”

William took up the rear.  “You think it could be a trap?”  he asked nervously, looking back over his shoulder as he went.  “Is it trying to trick us somehow, lure us to its den?”

“No.  I just don’t want to lose it,”  Dennis said angrily.  “I’m not letting this thing get away again.  I want it to pay for what it did to Phillip.  I need it to.”

“It will,”  Peter told him.  “Over there,”  he said, pointing.

Dennis didn’t slow down.  William came to a complete stop.  He took a knee and aimed his rifle.  There was a man they didn’t recognize laying face down in the dirt, blood leaking from his torso.  Dennis reached the man and grabbed him by the hair, lifting his head from the dirt.  The man looked up at him, his face scrunched in pain and speckled with earth, his eyes full of wild fear.

“He lives,”  Dennis called back to the others.  “Where is it?”  he asked the man.  “Where is the wolf?  Tell me before it gets away.  Which direction did it go?  Quickly.”

The stranger rolled over with a groan to show his shirt torn in four thick lines.  Dennis could see that his chest underneath didn’t fare any better than the cloth it adorned.  The wounds would scar, but they were shallow enough to keep him from bleeding out, a glancing blow if Dennis had to guess.  Phillip had been left in pieces, and it hadn’t taken the monster long to render him that way.

In his mind, Dennis saw the scene again, the horror of it, the violence.  The woods had been painted red just outside their village.  Dennis saw Phillip’s unseeing eyes first as his severed head stared back at him from the post of the wooden fence that surrounded his home.  Then he noticed the monster, still tugging at the meat of his brother with its enormous jaws.  It stood to its full height and towered over him when he was no small man.  Then with a howl to pierce the night, it was off and running.  Dennis swore his vengeance, gathered the others and did what they did so well: go on the hunt.

This man that lay before him now was lucky, to say the least.  If the demon had caught him with the full extent of its talons, on the true power of its muscled limbs, the man would have died for sure.  Dennis’s trained eyes scanned the trees around the fallen man, but he saw and heard nothing.  A low growl emitted from his throat that made William wonder who indeed was the animal here.

“It heard you and left,”  the stranger said with a cough, his fingers going to the still bleeding cuts in his chest and belly.  “It would have killed me.  Just another minute and I would have been food for that thing.  You saved my life.  Thank you.  I didn’t see which direction.”

Dennis nodded to him.  Of course he didn’t see what direction.  He was face down in the dirt.  This man had no fight in him, not that having fight did any good for Phillip.  Dennis signaled William to stay with the man, and then he waved Peter to him.  The two of them moved in different directions, searching the trees for any sign of the creature or its tracks.  After a thorough search, they returned, carrying nothing but their weapons and their frustration.  “There weren’t even tracks,”  Peter said.  “How can that be possible?  What manner of beast leaves no paw prints in the dirt, especially when it carries around that much weight?  It makes no sense.”

“I told you.  It’s a demon,”  Dennis said.  William said nothing.  He was too busy doing his best not to show the fear that was quaking his bones.  He wiped at his neck, wet with the perspiration of stress.  His eyes danced around like the fluttering mosquitoes that incessantly harassed them.  He wished he was back home with his wife, asleep in his bed, but was that really any safer?  Was anywhere safe with this monster out here?  Phillip had been just outside his own fence when he was killed.  As frightened as he was, William knew that they had a duty to their families.  This thing had to be brought down.

With another growl, Dennis said, “Let’s go.”They took the stranger back to their camp.  Peter had salves in his pack that he treated the man’s wounds with.  The newcomer hissed and grimaced as it was applied.

“Tell us your story,”  Dennis said, scoffing at him.  “You’re not from our village.  Where do you hail from?”

The man nodded, his face contorted with pain.  He eased himself upright against a tree.  “ Aye.  It’s true,”  he said.  “My name is Trevor.  I am from the next village over, Castlewood.  The beast killed my family, right there in our yard.  I took the coward’s path and ran.”  Dennis huffed and spat in the grass.  “It followed me.  I ran, and it kept on my tail.  I tried so hard to get away, but how could I outrun such a thing?  It caught up to me where you found me.  I screamed in fear, and the wolf slashed me across the chest with its giant paw.  Then you were there, and it was gone, gone like my beloved family.”

The three men looked at each other thoughtfully.  “If it followed you from Castlewood,”  Peter said, “then where are the tracks?”

Trevor just raised his arms and shook his head.  It seemed he had no logical answer for the lack of prints either.  “You lost someone, too,”  he said to Dennis.  “I can tell.  There’s pain in you.”

“My brother,”  Dennis answered.  “And he was no coward.”

Trevor hung his head in shame but offered no argument.

“Your family, you said.  How many?”  Peter asked from his place beside the man.

“My wife and daughter,”  Trevor told him.  “I didn’t have a gun when it came, and I didn’t trust in myself to kill it with a stone from the earth.  I wanted to make sure I lived so I could regroup and avenge my family.  Dying with them, they would see no justice.  I ran away.  I know you see me as wretched, but now I can join you and be part of taking the monster down.  I can send the murderer to Hell before I join my family in heaven.”

“Most men would want to rejoin their wife and child immediately,”  William said then.  “If Sarah were taken from me, I would not want to go on without her.  I would have begged the monster to tear my throat free and send me on.”

“I would follow Lucy to the grave, too,”  Peter said.  “And the boys.  They are the air in my lungs.”

Trevor looked away from them.  “I don’t want to live without them, but I do want to live long enough to deliver the Devil his dog.  I’m sorry if you cannot understand my purpose.  I don’t need you to respect me, just to help me, help them find justice.”

Dennis answered with a nod.  He understood more than he would have liked to admit.  He didn’t run off blindly into the woods after the monster that had slain his dear brother.  He went and got the others and proper provisions and weapons.  Calculated did not equal cowardice.  “First, you must rest, allow the salve to heal your wounds,”  he said with surprising empathy.  “Peter, you have first watch.  If you see or hear anything, you wake us.  Do not go after this thing alone, you hear me?  We fight together.”

Peter met his eyes.  “Is that because you care about me or because you care about your own vengeance, and you don’t want me to steal the thunder of your kill?”

“Just wake us,”  Dennis answered with snakelike bitterness.

William felt like he was too afraid to sleep, but somehow he still managed.  They all did until Trevor woke them screaming.  “Get up!  We must go now!  Get up!”

“What is it?”  Dennis snarled, sitting up and grabbing his knife.  He went forward into a roll and then bounded to his feet, eyes peeled and brandishing the blade in his hand.

“It took Peter.  I saw it,”  Trevor said, his voice trembling with fear that made Dennis question his most recent assessment of the man’s bravery.  “It snatched him right off of his seat while he was watching for it.  My bladder was calling me to duty, and it happened right as I opened my eyes.  The wolf came from the shadows between the trees and seized him.  Peter dropped his gun.  It hit him over the head and then carried him off into the trees.”  Trevor was pointing the way.  Peter’s rifle sat on the ground, and Dennis judged that it seemed to be where it would have fallen if the man’s story rang with truth.  He looked over Trevor with disgust.  “It seems your bladder didn’t wait for the interruption to be over.”

Trevor looked down at his pants with embarrassment, his cheeks flushing pink.  “I was frightened,”  he said.

“Well, now you have a gun,”  Dennis told him, clamping a hand on the man’s shoulder.  Be sure to use it.  Let’s go.”  William was trembling, but he followed them into the trees.  His head buzzed, all the thoughts of everything bad that could happen tumbling over in his mind.  His eyes danced like the traveling performers that would visit their village during the warm months of summer.  Ultimately, they found their way to the ground, where there was a trail of blood he could only assume belonged to his friend.  It was easy to follow, almost too easy.  He voiced his concern to the others.  “It leaves no tracks, but it leaves a trail of blood?  I don’t like it.”

Dennis didn’t respond.  He knew the other man was right, but it wasn’t going to stop him, so there was nothing to be said about it.  He didn’t care if it was a trap.  A trap meant he would get to face the beast that killed his brother.  That was all he cared about.  “How much do you think we can fetch for a pelt that big?”  he asked snidely.

Then they found Peter.  He had been gored and thrown up into a tree where he hung limply over a branch, his lifeless eyes staring at them, his empty open rib cage grabbing the branch like a bony hand.  Dennis screamed in fury.  He was quaking with hatred, and his entire body gave way to adrenaline-fueled convulsions.

William and Trevor pointed their guns at the trees and turned in circles.  “You saw it?”  William asked.  “You saw it take Peter?  You saw it with your own eyes?”

Trevor nodded, swallowing a lump in his throat.  His eyes nervously scanned the surrounding trees.  “I opened my eyes, and I watched it seize him.  It happened so fast.  In a moment, it was dragging him away before I could even call for you.  I wasn’t sure that what I was seeing was real and that I wasn’t dreaming at first.  As soon as I sat up and saw that I was truly awake, I yelled for you both.  I’m sorry.  I should have acted faster.  If I was quicker, maybe I could have saved my family too, warned them.  I wish I were better.”

“We don’t have time for that kind of thinking.  I have more important worries,”  William said.  Dennis was still snarling like a beast himself and sniffing at the air, glaring into the darkness, his trembling fingers constantly readjusting on the hilt of his blade.

“Why did it just take Peter?  Why didn’t it just kill us all?”  William asked.  “That’s what I want to know.  I care not for your slow reactions or soiled pants.”

“It’s too smart for that,”  Dennis answered with a quiet knowing that packed as much force as his anger-driven screams.  “It knew it wouldn’t have time to do that before we awakened.  It didn’t want to get caught.  It’s going to pick us apart if it can.  It is doing to our hunting party what it did to my brother’s body, ripping and tearing it apart, one piece at a time.”

“You almost sound like you respect that demon,”  Trevor said.

“Hmmph,”  was all Dennis said, and he punctuated it with a shrug.

“Maybe we should go back,”  William said to them both.  “We can regroup, come back with more men, ten or twenty even.  That would make it harder for the beast to dwindle our ranks.  It would give us more opportunities to catch the thing too.”

“You can go if you want to.  Same for you,”  Dennis said, gesturing towards Trevor.  “I’m not leaving these woods until either the wolf is dead or I am.  You’re right.  Calculated is good.  Do the smart thing.  I won’t stop you, but I’m not leaving.  I can’t.”

“I have nothing left to go back to,”  Trevor said.  “I want to see this through.  I’d rather face the beast and die than do this another day.”

William frowned.  “So, what’s the next move then?”

“The wolf is nocturnal, I believe.  We wait ‘til daylight.  It has to sleep at some point.  We just have to find where it goes, and with a beast that large, it shouldn’t be hard to find.”  Dennis stormed past them, back through the trees.

“What about Peter?”  William said from behind him.

“Peter is gone,”  Dennis said, without looking back as he marched off towards camp.

When they made it back to their fire and belongings, William said, “I definitely cannot go back to sleep.  I don’t even think I can sit in one place.  That thing is still out there somewhere.  It could be watching us right now, waiting for its chance to grab another of us.  God grant us mercy.”

“Good that you can’t sleep,”  Dennis told him.  “Then you’re taking next watch because the fire of my hatred is sapping my energy.  I need to rest in order to make sure I have what it takes when the fight is upon us come morn.”  He laid down and closed his eyes, hand still clutching his knife’s thick handle.

William looked frightened.  He wiped sweat from his forehead and bit his lip, his eyes roaming the shadows for any sign of the monster.  Trevor’s story was still fresh in his mind.  That thing grabbed Peter before he could even react, leaving his gun.  What good would being on watch even do?  Quietly his lips moved in barely audible prayer.

He looked towards Trevor, who was lying down as well.  He had seemed just as frightened.  How could he just sleep?  How was it so easy for both of them, knowing that a killer was out there in the trees, stalking them?  How was it so easy to sleep after finding Peter mutilated the way they had?  Peter was their friend.  They had been hunting with him and sharing holidays with his family for years.  He was the brother of Phillip’s wife, for God’s sake.  Widow, he reluctantly corrected himself, and his worry deepened.  The wolf was somewhere in the dark, watching.  He could feel it.  William searched for the sparkle of animal eyes, but he saw nothing.  He just felt it.  He didn’t know if it was nerves or truth, but he felt inclined to trust his gut.  After what happened to Phillip and now Peter, William didn’t know if he would ever sleep again.  He asked God to watch over his wife and keep her safe in his absence.

William decided that sitting was far too vulnerable and nerve-racking for him to handle this night.  Peter was sitting right where he now sat when the wolf took him.  It was enough to drive him mad, so he got to his feet.

William was pacing nervously, clutching his rifle in his sweaty hands.  He prayed quietly that the wolf wouldn’t come back, that God would take care of their problem for them.  He begged for it.  He would have taken Dennis up on the offer to leave, but he didn’t want to go back by himself.  He was too frightened.  He didn’t believe the monster would have allowed him to make it to the village with his head.  His plan was all but useless if he was killed on the way.  It would just be one less gun to help Dennis slay the demon.

William looked in every direction and walked around the camp as the others slept.  He was really on edge.  He would jump at nothing.  Owls hooted in the dark, and his gun flew in their direction.  Things skittered and scurried through the woods all the time, and it had him antsy.  He jumped and spun and pointed his gun over and over, but nothing ever came.

Dennis was right.  The wolf was smart.  If it saw him patrolling and trigger happy at that, it would never be foolish enough to show itself.  Maybe that was good, though.  Maybe it would keep him alive.

Then his eyes went wide as something reached around from behind him.  Thick nails tore into his throat and opened it wider than his eyes.  A geyser of crimson spewed forth from him, and his fingers fumbled to catch it as if he could return the blood to his body.  He collapsed to his knees, sinking into the dirt turned to mud by his own fluid.  As his life drained from him, he was seized from behind and dragged towards the trees.

“You,”  Dennis said.

Trevor dropped William’s body and stared at the hunter.  Dennis was already clutching his knife.  He had been ready and waiting on this moment.  “You made sure to change, to not leave paw prints for us to follow…but did you think a real tracker wouldn’t notice the human prints?  I am nobody’s fool.”

“You knew I would take William,”  Trevor said, his clawed arm returning to human form.  “You sacrificed him in order to catch me in the act.  You care so little even for other humans, yet you claim to be here for vengeance.  How could you be so cold?”

“To defeat clever, you must be clever,”  Dennis said.  “This is about the hunt.  It’s about victory.  We will see who the superior hunter really is.  Now prepare to die, demon.”

Dennis dove for Trevor, knife raised above him.  While he was in mid-air, Trevor changed.  His entire body bulged and warped, changed shape and size.  Bones cracked and hair grew.  His nose and mouth pulled from his face and became a muzzle of razor teeth flanked by whiskers.  It only took a moment.  Just like that, Trevor went from human to man-sized wolf.

Dennis’s blade punched through the shoulder of the giant beast that stood erect on its hind legs.  The enormous creature howled in pain but grabbed the hunter with a huge paw and flung him across the camp.  Dennis’s back hit a tree, and he fell into the still-hot remnants of the fire.  Dennis rolled away with his shirt smoking, and he flipped to his feet, growling like he was a beast, a human animal.

The wolf was on all fours then, snarling, saliva dripping from its immense jaws.  The hunter grabbed a nearby rifle, now that his blade was lost, as it remained stuck into the wolf’s thick hide.  He dropped to one knee and fired as the wolf charged straight for him.  The thing didn’t even stop.  The bang echoed through the trees, scattering the creatures of the night.

Dennis was sure that he hit it, but the monster was still coming.  It truly was a demon.  He eyes fell upon his knife that was still embedded in the charging beast’s shoulder.  When it reached him and sank its giant teeth into his midsection, he cried out in agony but grabbed the hilt of the blade.

Dennis could feel his organs being punctured.  He knew that he was bleeding internally as well as externally.  He knew in his heart that he wasn’t going to make it home to his family.  He wasn’t going to be able to tell Phillip’s wife and child that the creature was dead.  He wouldn’t be able to show them the skin, to let them feel safe again.

Dennis didn’t want to perish without taking the wolf with him.  He couldn’t leave this thing in the world to destroy more families.  He couldn’t admit that this demonic beast was the better hunter.  “An eye for an eye,”  he snarled.

Dennis endured the pain that was trying to make him black out.  He ripped the blade free of the beast’s shoulder and plunged it into the creature’s chest, knowing well right where its heart was.  It yelped, sounding more like a real wolf than a demon, and Dennis found that satisfying; the monster had been reduced to a simple animal.  It released him, falling onto its side where it laid, taking shallow breaths as it waited for death.

Dennis looked down at his own body.  His entire torso was full of puncture wounds.  He was already soaked with his own blood.  It was painting the grass and dirt beneath him.  “It seems like we are both going to die today, demon,”  he said.  “I suppose we’re even.”

The wolf turned back into Trevor, who remained on his side, clutching the knife in his chest.  He coughed, and blood sprayed from his mouth.  “We are now.  As for death, that is fine by me,”  he said.  “I didn’t lie to you.  You are the beast that killed my wife and child…you and your brother.  You shot them right in front of me, and then I watched from the shadows as you skinned them by the fire.  I watched you drag them away, nothing more than pelts and meat to you, and I swore my vengeance.  Now I have it, and I can go in peace and join them.  Tell your brother hello when you get to Hell.”

Dennis said nothing…partly because he was in shock, but mostly because there was nothing left to say.  He and this creature were one and the same, from beginning to end.  His eyes fell closed.  Then Trevor’s shallow breaths ceased, and the woods grew still.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Chisto Healy
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Chisto Healy

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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