The Predators of Overbrook

📅 Published on July 11, 2022

“The Predators of Overbrook”

Written by Richard Morgan
Edited by Craig Groshek
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


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If you’ve heard of Overbrook, it’s probably because of The Overbrook Impaler. What a way to put your hometown on the map, right? He’s why half the world heard about our quiet coastal town.

Tommy-Lee Rawlings. That’s how he was eventually identified. He preferred girls. The younger, the better. His MO was—you guessed it—impaling. Mostly with large metal spikes. Apparently, he melted down whatever he could to make them. He would crucify some of his victims, nailing them to trees and empty buildings. Other times he would just drive his spikes wherever he felt like it. His cruelty wasn’t limited to mutilation. It was only natural that rape fit into his fascination with impaling. He had Overbrook terrified. Nobody was out after dark and everyone locked their doors. I didn’t know any of this.

I didn’t get to see The Overbrook Impaler in the news reports. Mom and Dad would switch the TV off when either I or my little sister, Eden, came into the room. Or they would shoo us away. He was all over the news, so Mom and Dad had to work hard.

“Come on, I’m nine years old,” I’d protest. But they wouldn’t listen. Still, no matter how ugly the truth is, you can’t keep it hidden—especially from curious children who go to school with a bunch of other curious children. Kids are terrible but avid journalists. They gulp down facts and make some facts up if they think they don’t have enough.

I and a rotating cast of my classmates would huddle under the slide at recess and whisper what we thought we knew about The Overbrook Impaler. I contributed the least because I knew nothing.

There was no structure to the discussion. We would talk over each other, like drunk poker players adding chips to the pot.

“I heard that he only likes little girls. And when he’s done killing them, he eats them.”

“Yeah? I heard that he sticks them to the wall with giant nails and laughs at them while they die. Just like Dracula!”

“Dracula wasn’t real!”

“I mean, the dude that Dracula is based on. It was on The History Channel.”

“You’re such a nerd…”

“My mom says he’s a raper!”

“Your mom thinks every man is a raper.”

“But he is!”

I lost track of how many recesses we spent huddled under the shade of the slide as if it were an invisible haven. We never tired of sharing the same general information over and over. We would imagine that he was in the bushes that dotted the school’s perimeter. Or hiding in the clumps of trees that divided up yards and properties. He was always imagined to be watching from a distance.

I would stare, barely breathing, trying to catch a glimpse of the monster in his hiding place.

“Sommer? Sommer!” the supervisors would say, making me jump out of my skin. This was always when most of the kids were back inside and I had tuned out the bell.

I had developed a picture of The Overbrook Impaler that wasn’t even human. Anyone that did such horrible things couldn’t be. He had to be tall and brutish with horns and claws. When I finally saw him, he was nothing like what I had been expecting.

I was at the supermarket with Mom and my little sister. Mom was looking at the salads and I was gazing around at all the colorful vegetables. My eyes were drawn to a flash of blue. It came from a pair of eyes that belonged to a tall, slender man. Most of his hair was gone. His nose was sharp and wolfish, and his teeth seemed large and square like cinder blocks. If they had been pointed, they would have poked out through the parting of his lips. I had never seen his face before, but I had seen his eyes before. That look—I had seen it in a book at school in a chapter that explained what a predator and prey were. The word prey accompanied a picture of a bug-eyed rabbit. The picture for ‘predator’ was a gray and black wolf. Its pupils were contracted to pinpoints. They were staring into the camera. Through the camera, through the page, and into my soul. That’s the look that The Overbrook Impaler had. The very first time I laid eyes on him, his eyes were already on me.

Staring at the pictures of the wolf and the rabbit, my mind filled up with questions that most teachers feel too underpaid to answer: Is a rabbit still prey if there are no predators? I’ve seen nature programs where wolves are eating seeds and berries. Is the wolf still a predator? Is prey prey and a predator a predator only when they’re near each other? Do they depend on each other for those roles?

I had contemplated every angle except the penetrating hunger in the eyes of that wolf. It didn’t mean anything to me until I saw that man in the store. Of course, I didn’t know who he was.

“Sommer, do you want any fruits or anything?” my mother said, making me jump. I looked at her, disoriented.

“I uh, sure. I’d like some oranges for breakfast, I guess,” I said. I looked around for the wolf man but he was gone.

More accurately, I just couldn’t see him anymore.

But I thought about him. Nobody had ever looked at me like that before. It was… intense. Maybe he was just intensely friendly. I almost brought it up with Mom. Looking back, I don’t think it would have made any difference.

Back home we went to the relative safety of the Johnston Family Estate. The neighborhood was exclusive, but the property that our home sat on was also exclusive, separate from the neighborhood. The sort of place that has signs in the driveway that say PRIVATE PROPERTY, PRIVATE DRIVE, IF YOU NEED TO TURN AROUND, DO IT NOW, NOT LATER. You couldn’t even see the closest neighbor from our home. That was as much due to the trees as much as distance. As a nine-year-old girl, I didn’t appreciate the loneliness as I should have. There are worse things in the world than an ancestral house nestled beneath trees with private ponds and acres of wilderness.

There wasn’t anything eccentric about my parents. They were just secretive. Dad wore this heavy old key around his neck on a leather strap. It didn’t go to anything in the house that I knew of. When I asked him about it, he was dismissive. My family had a long-running reputation of not appreciating visitors, but there were a few exceptions.

The children of our closest neighbor, the Hills, were okay for some reason. Big burly Braden Hill and his little sister, Bethany. Braden was thirteen, so he didn’t have much in common with me. Bethany was six, closer to Eden’s age. I was kind of alone, even when we had company. Which was a strange feeling, since Braden and Bethany were with us every chance they got. They didn’t mind the trek from their door to ours. My parents always acted like visitors would find out something that they weren’t supposed to, but Braden was autistic and Bethany was innocent so that somehow granted them clearance.

They also tolerated Braden and Bethany’s insistence on being with us for car trips. This made for cramped quarters on routine visits to the grocery store. We were kids. We didn’t care. We liked it. It made the family feel bigger.

One ordinary Sunday we were piled into the back seat of the car like a bunch of silly sardines, me and Eden and Braden and Bethany Hill. Mom had to make a super quick run to the grocery store. There really wasn’t any point in us tagging along. But we wanted out of the house. The Hill kids wanted out of theirs, and it was a beautiful summer day.

It puzzled me how mom tried so hard to talk Braden and Bethany out of going with us, but at the last, she gave in.

Along the way, Mom switched on the news on the radio. A report began to play about how The Overbrook Impaler had struck again. She immediately turned it off.

“Why can’t we listen to the news, Mrs. J?” Bethany asked. But Mom didn’t answer her.

A while later, I heard Mom say something aggressive under her breath as she looked at the gas gauge. “Kids, I’ll need to pull over to fuel up.”

And that was the first time I had ever seen Mom park in front of a gas station that wasn’t a miniature shopping mall. This was more like an abandoned shack that barely turned enough business. The pumps weren’t even digital. How desperate were we? She filled up while we kids marveled at the stillness. It wasn’t like the stillness of home. It was different. Lonelier. It was broken by the ding of a brass bell when the tank was full.

“Wait here, I’m going inside to pay,” Mom said. The stillness deepened when we kids were by ourselves. Well, we thought we were by ourselves. No sooner had mom disappeared inside the gas station than a man came out of nowhere. The first thing I saw was his eyes. It was him. The man with the wolf eyes. All of us froze in place at the sight of him. I was seated in the middle and I leaned sharply to make sure that the car doors were locked.

“Hey, ow!” Eden protested.

“We need to lock the doors, now!” I said.

All four doors gave a solid click just in time for the wolf man to try the driver’s door. A wave of relief washed over me. It was short-lived. The wolf man bent over and picked something up. He then dangled it in front of the windshield. It rang like small wind chimes. It was mom’s car keys. She had dropped them on her way out. We panicked. We screamed. The bodies of each of us were in motion. We were too cramped together for us to do any good. The wolf man slid into the driver’s seat, started the car, and drove off like we were his.

* * * * * *

The Impaler kept looking back at us.

“Nobody moves, nobody dies,” he lied.

You could hear him grunt with each exhale like a hungry wolf.

Several times I thought of grabbing his head or pushing my fingers into his eyes. Maybe even just opening the car door and running… or something. Anything. But I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t end in a car crash or being chased down by him. So we sat there and trembled like rabbits locked in his jaws.

I didn’t recognize where he was taking us. All I could tell was that it was far away, near the sea, and someplace without houses. I felt like I was being swallowed alive into some great blackness of no return.

I wondered how he planned to handle all of us at once. Four of us and one of him—perhaps we had a chance when he started putting hands on us.

I got my answer when he pulled over and got out of the car. He turned the AC on full blast. He opened a dirty rucksack and took with him what looked like a bleach bottle with the label torn off. He popped the hood of the car.

“Now’s our chance!” I hissed.

“I’m scared!” said Bethany.

“We do this now or we don’t do it at all! He’s distracted! Go!”

Braden had the presence of mind to try and unlock the door. No matter how he pawed at it, the lock held. It shouldn’t have been doing that.

“Try the buttons in the front seat!” I commanded. Braden’s bulky frame lunged over the seat like a struggling seal. His hand stopped just short of the buttons before going limp.

I was about to yell at him when a sharp chemical smell filled the cabin and the world melted away.

I woke up feeling cold and wet. Had I really peed myself in fear? No. I was inside some kind of prison cell that had been carved out of solid rock. I was in disgusting and smelly water that came up to my elbows as I was propped against the rough-hewn wall. The only opening was blocked by a grate of straight and heavy iron bars. The bars closest to the water looked like they had been slowly gnawed away over time. My first impulse was to do what everyone in the movies does: run up to the bars and grab them. But my hands and legs were bound with layers of duct tape. Eden, Braden, and Bethany were in that cell with me, propped up with their heads between their knees, still asleep. A pang of fear hit me that if any of them fell over, they could drown.

The cell… if you’ve ever seen a dungeon cell in a fantasy film, that was it. Underground, wet, and crude. Needlessly miserable. Instead of torches, oil lamps—the kind common at farm supply stores—hung here and there. We had just enough light to be afraid. A choking sob announced that Bethany was waking up.

By the time we were all awake, we sat and stared at each other like frightened mice. We were prey and we were terrified.

Braden only ever had one facial expression for as long as I knew him: Neutral. But he leaned over to me with brave words, “The tape holding my hands is coming undone because of the water. When he comes for us, I’ll beat him up and we can get out of here.”

That was the kind of good news I needed to hear. The hope that I felt had a lot of weight riding on it, pressed down by nagging thoughts like, What if he isn’t coming back for us? What if he’s just going to leave us here to starve to death?

Oh, he came for us alright. He held up his oil lamp and looked us over. There was a light in his eyes separate from the lamp. The embers of hunger.

“My, my. What a catch.”

His teeth gleamed like ivory tombstones as his tongue massaged them. His focus narrowed on Bethany. “What’s your name, sweet little thing?”

She could only manage a few frightened peeps. For this, she was blasted with a deafening roar. “Answer me, you little slut!”

“I’m Bethany!”

“Bethany! Oh, Bethany, you look so tasty!”

She started whimpering and you could tell he was aroused.

He grabbed the bars with one hand and leaned back, throwing his face skyward.

“TASTY!” he shouted. In his exuberance, the arm with the lantern swung and it shattered against the wall in a fireball.

“Look what you made me do!” he growled before sloshing off.

“This is it, when he comes back, I’m going for it,” Braden whispered. I looked him over. He was burly for his age. The Impaler was taller but much skinnier. He just might be able to do it. Hope settled on my heart like a butterfly, and I didn’t dare breathe and risk scaring it away.

Within minutes, we heard splashing footsteps returning along with a chant of “Tasty, tasty, tasty! Tasty, tasty, tasty!”

He hung the lamp up on a hook somewhere and got to unlocking the door. Braden’s body tensed like a compressed spring. Bethany was transfixed by The Impaler, shaking her head side to side and wearing a look of mounting panic.

He went for her. She screamed and my ears rang. Braden’s arms were free and he began pummeling The Impaler. The monster was definitely caught off guard. A flurry of blows landed in his face, to which The Impaler stood at his full height to escape. Then Braden drove into his gut.

I opened my mouth to cheer Braden on. But flecks of blood spattered my tongue, my lips, and my eyes. A crimson line appeared across Braden’s throat as he staggered back, and The Impaler held a machete streaked with blood. It plunged into Braden’s stomach like a bolt of stainless steel lightning. The hand on the knife made a downward jerking motion and bright red innards slithered out into the water with smacking plops.

Braden fell and shuffled on his hands and knees, staring at his ropy insides that bobbed in the water under his face. He took a handful and lifted them as if he were going to try and put them back. He face-planted into the water and stopped moving.

Bethany was petrified.

The monster snapped his face towards her before throwing his head back and once again screaming “TASTY!” 

Bethany babbled her pleas for mercy. She even started asking him to take either me or my sister instead of her. I was appalled. I still feel bad for blaming her in the moment. He grabbed her by her hair and hauled her off. She screamed and gyrated and thrashed the entire way as he tried to shout over her, “Tasty, tasty, tasty!”

There was a moment of relative quiet before the demon got to work. The awfulness of the sounds that echoed through the cavern is beyond my vocabulary. The only thing worse was how long they lasted. I’m not sure, but I think I fell asleep from shock, unable to process Bethany’s agony any longer. She eventually fell into silence. But The Impaler continued making strange, loathsome sounds for long after.

I looked at Eden. Her eyes were glassy and unfocused. Parts of Braden floated near me, touching my leg. I recoiled back and tested my bonds. That flash of luck must have only been Braden’s—My hands were as fast as ever.

I strained against the tape until my wrists screamed. My ankles were the same no matter how I twisted and stretched. I gave up like prey swallowed alive trying to climb out of a stomach. My love for my sister would stoke my will to fight, but my body was spent and my mental health was blasted.

I watched Braden and his guts drift to a corner of the cell. He would undulate slightly and I would hope that he was still alive, but he wasn’t. He got out the fastest because The Overbrook Impaler only likes girls, I thought. And guess what, Sommer? You’re a girl.

I wasn’t ready for the Impaler to come back when he did. It was too soon, not that any time would have been good. He looked at me only briefly.

“What’s your name, tiny girl?” he said to my sister.


“Ooh, I like that name. It sounds sweet, like forbidden fruit. So tasty! TASTY!” he shouted the word at the ceiling again and then he started to unlock the door.

“Leave her alone!” I sputtered. “Take… Take me instead!”

“You’ll have to wait your turn!”

“No, please! Take me, take me, take me, just let her go!”

He scooped her up. All her wriggling did her no good and the stimulation was visible in his face. He ran down the corridor like a football player shouting “Tasty, tasty, tasty!”

My mind did something where I had no thoughts. Stimuli came in, but nothing was processed. Nothing could be processed. Silence hung in the air for one excruciating moment of punctuation.

At Eden’s first scream, my vision blurred. My ears rang. My skin felt like it was frying on a hot griddle. I felt like I was going to burst. Maybe I did. Surely I was hallucinating because I tore my bonds like they were made of cobwebs. I flew onto the bars like a leopard. They groaned under my twisting grasp, but wouldn’t yield. So I backed up and launched myself at them with cannonball force. I did it again. And again. They were starting to buckle. I did it again. Eden’s screaming started to sound inhuman. I plowed into those bars even harder yet. But that’s what knocked me out. What a strange dream, I thought as I felt the water filling my nose before I blacked out.

* * * * * *

Steady beeping was the first thing to reach my senses. It sounded medical. It sounded sane. It sounded safe. I didn’t dare get my hopes up that I was finally someplace safe. The Impaler’s hideout was as inaccessible as a tomb. But when I opened my eyes, the blurred double image of a nurse greeted me. She was leaning down to look at me. The two images joined in the center of my vision to become one nurse.

“Are you in there, Miss Johnston?” she said. She sounded like my ears were full of water. I was able to see past her just enough to tell that there was somebody else in the room. In the bed behind her, I could see hair sprawled out on the pillow of the other hospital bed. It was the color of Eden’s hair. The nurse split into two people again as I drifted off again.

I thought I was out for just a few seconds. But the room wasn’t as bright that time. There was no sunlight peeking around the curtains. I felt a little stronger, even though there was a hammer striking an anvil in my head. I gazed at the other bed. Eden faced me as she lay on her pillow, eyes closed. Her blanket slowly rose and fell. How was she alive? My mind raced to the possibilities of what all she had endured before she ended up here. She shifted in her sleep. She brought her hand up and slipped it under her cheek.

I could see her wrist. I expected it to be bandaged up from a wound inflicted by The Impaler, but there was nothing but a faint dark spot, like a bruise.

Questions trickled into my brain, but I was just happy for the moment that my sister was safe. We could heal together. I wouldn’t have to weather the process by myself.

Nurses brought us food. I was hungry. Eden wasn’t. She wouldn’t make eye contact with the staff, with me, or anyone. She wouldn’t say a word. Her eyes flicked around and she trembled no matter how many blankets they gave her. My dread deepened. That wasn’t my sister. Whatever was left of her was broken and wounded and hunkered down inside her shell, too afraid to come out to see even her own flesh and blood. I talked to her as I ate, even though she wouldn’t say anything back.

Just before we were released, a couple of policemen came by our room. There was something about them that I didn’t like. They looked at us funny. It wasn’t the same as the wolf eyes that The Impaler had. But there certainly wasn’t any warmth or reassurance. They were wary and on edge—as if they were prey. With patently false smiles, they told me and my sister that they would want to speak to us after we were home and had some time to settle back into our lives.

I honestly didn’t think we had lives to settle back into. When we did go home, it felt like coming home to a heap of rubble left behind by bombs. Our parents were so quiet. I figured they just weren’t sure what to say, but how I wished they’d say something. Or ask something. Anything. They made me feel like radioactive waste that they were too afraid to touch. The first few days we just sat in each other’s presence when we could. I wished that they would ask something deeper than ‘Are you hungry?’ Something less safe. But no, everything they said was ‘safe.’ I don’t remember the last time I felt so alone in my own home.

I tried to be there for Eden. But she was still silent, borderline catatonic, beyond reach. She stayed in her room, either sleeping or staring. So I sat in her room with her and stared out the window. One day that blurred with all the other days, Mom came in to tell us that the police were on their way to ask us some questions. She had readied a dining room for the meeting with hot tea and rolls. She encouraged us to cooperate with them. It struck me that she seemed uncomfortable in a way that I couldn’t place. Which was ridiculous. Weren’t we the victims? Was she eaten up with guilt over dropping the car keys or what?

I barely recognized the two policemen when they arrived, but I recognized the way they carried themselves. Like prey. Wary and cautious, giving us a wide berth. They sat down at a coffee table between two loveseats, they on one, and myself and Eden on the other. When they reached for their tea, they did it with overly extended arms, as if they were afraid to lean in towards us.

Mother left the room, leaving me and Eden alone with the officers. The senior officer feigned his best warm smile.

“Ladies, I appreciate you talking to us so soon after your ordeal. We’ve got some questions for you. We’ll need you to revisit as much of what happened to you as possible. I realize what we’re asking of you. Please—give us as much as you can so we can sort all this out.”

I just shrugged. “I guess the sooner we do this, the sooner you catch him.”

They exchanged a look with each other. I didn’t know what it meant, but it felt wrong.

“Er—yes. Now. Let’s start from the beginning.”

For me, the beginning was in the grocery store. I could trace the dots from there with lines the color of adrenaline. The events leading up Eden’s assault were buried in a haze of panic and nausea. The officers bled a little warmth from their expressions when I told them about Bethany. But that wary aura of prey returned to them when I got around what happened to Eden. Instead of softening, they were hardening. More on guard. The way they were behaving—well, it should have been saved for interrogating The Impaler, if they ever got their hands on him.

I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Look, I know you guys are just doing your job. But you’ve been looking at me funny this whole time. And you’ve been looking at each other funny. There’s something here you’re not telling me. This monster did horrible things to my family and our friends. Do you know something? Please? I don’t want to be in the dark.”

The officers exchanged another look, albeit a restrained one.

“You’re doing it again! What is that? I can see it! Do you know where he is or what?”

Both of them shifted.

“You’re very perceptive, Miss Johnston. There’s a great deal we don’t know and your story is only deepening the mystery.”

“Well, I’m telling you what I know! I’m not hiding anything!”

The officer put up both of his hands. “I believe you, trust me. I will tell you that we indeed found The Overbrook Impaler—”

My jaw dropped.

“—We found him some distance from where you were. His arms and legs had been torn from his body. One of the spikes that I suppose he was fond of using, it ran through the back of his throat, fastening him to a cliffside overlooking the water.”

The other officer spoke up. “That cliff is at the top of a sheer vertical drop that no average person could climb. It would be insane to manage to hang a body while climbing.”

The elder officer nodded and jumped in. “The only reason we were able to find him was that your sister led us to him. And we found her alongside the road about three miles from you. Now as for The Overbrook Impaler, not only had he been relieved of his limbs, which would allow us to comfortably judge that he ran into a hungry bear, his intestines had been wrapped around his neck and tied in a bow. That’s not the malice of an animal.”

The quieter officer cut in again. “Now, whoever did this to The Overbrook Impaler is a hero for sure. But also, possibly, a worse killer. And right now, the only person of interest in that devil’s death is your poor dear sister. She was slathered in blood when we found her.”

I felt the wind leave my lungs. “Person… of… interest…”

“Now do you understand where we’re coming from? Surely there was another person involved. Little Eden here is what, seven? Unless the full moon turned her into some sort of demon, someone else made the kill in close proximity to her and set her free. Or she got away. So please—we’re a little baffled.”

I looked at Eden, and there was the keenness of a razor in her eyes. But she avoided looking directly at anyone.

“Has she said anything at all?” asked the senior officer.

“She hasn’t even coughed.”

“It’s probably too soon to press her with questions, then. But I do thank you for helping us.”

They got up and excused themselves and Mom showed them out. I stared at Eden who in turn stared deep into her cup of cold tea.

“Eden, do you know who killed The Impaler?” I said. Her eyes shifted to look at me from their corners, but she said nothing. That sent a chill through me. She knew. And I felt like I knew, too. But I couldn’t have put it into words if you had held a gun to my head.

The nights darkened as the moon waned and waned. It took me a while to catch on that Eden wasn’t just staring out the window. She was watching the moon. Whichever window of the house provided a view of it, that’s where she was. When it was cloudy, she was in her room staring at nothing. Her appetite did improve. Her hands shook when she ate, but at least she ate.

The moon began to wax and her demeanor took on a peculiar change. I’d stand beside her, trying to decode what was in her eyes. A few nights before the proper full moon, I found an unexpected change in myself.

She was watching the moon from the family dining room. I was going to stand with her for a few minutes before helping her to bed. But as I got near her, I heard a sound. Something like a heartbeat. It got louder as I got closer to her. It was as clear as a bell. I thought I was losing my mind, but I put my ear to her chest, and it was the same sound. I grew afraid.

I paced around her, testing the strange experience. I could hear it from as far away as twenty steps. With each following night, I could hear it from anywhere in the house. To complicate matters, I could hear Mom and Dad’s hearts, too.

The night of the full moon came.

I had gone to bed early and fell into vivid dreams about a hole in the floor of my cell. I dreamed that I was able to wriggle down inside. The Impaler had come for me and I held my breath and dove into the hole out of desperation. A ghostly light barely lit my surroundings as I sank like a stone. I saw Bethany’s ravaged body, her hair floating about her scarred face. Mom and Dad were down there, staring at me without expression, their eyes tracking me. I wanted to call out for help, but I didn’t dare let the water in my lungs.

I sank until there was nothing—Until there was a heartbeat. My sister emerged out of the murk. Her head snapped to look at me. Her eyes were solid black. I lost my breath in shock and the freezing water rushed inside my chest. I panicked for a few seconds until I realized that I was breathing. It was like winter air. My sister darted off with superhuman speed, and that’s when I woke up.

Our room was always dark, but I could see quite clearly. Also, I could hear everything. Mom and Dad’s hearts through the walls of their bedroom. The scuttling of a woodlouse in the wall. Something bigger creeping across the carpet, like a mouse. I looked around for Eden. She wasn’t in her bed. I was out of bed in an instant, but I landed on my feet unsteadily. Had my head come within an inch of hitting the ceiling? Not even Daddy could touch the ceiling with an outstretched arm. This daunted me for only a moment. I could hear Eden’s heart coming from outside. Our bedroom window was open. My throat tightened at the notion that she had gone out onto the roof. I had a brief vision of her being so overcome by her trauma that she committed suicide. But her heartbeat reassured me.

The balmy night breeze kissed me as soon as I moved through the window onto the roof. From there, I could hear other hearts that were arrhythmic, as though with grief. They were coming from the direction of the home of the Hill Family. Was I really hearing the broken hearts of Braden and Bethany’s parents?

I looked up at the full moon and an electric madness took me. I stopped thinking in words. It was pure thought, like a newborn baby, or an animal. I homed in on the sound of my sister’s heart and I leaped off of the roof and landed on my feet in a spray of turf. I didn’t even stop to contemplate such insanity. I sprinted off at the speed of shadow, barely feeling the ground beneath me. The moon’s glow was like silver sunlight all around me. Trees passed by in a smudged blur. I felt overstimulated and intoxicated, and I loved it. I found my sister standing at the edge of a large pond, or a small lake, depending on how you looked at it. She turned to me.

Her eyes were the color of a candle’s flame. Her pupils were the shape of an hourglass, like in the eyes of a goat or an octopus. Her hair writhed, as it was a nest of tentacles with spines in the center of each sucker. There was an array of small tentacles along each jaw. Gills flared on the sides of her neck. Before I could cry out, my own reflection in the water caught my attention.

I had no business being afraid of Eden’s appearance because I looked just like her—worse, actually. I had several pairs of eyes that blinked independently of each other. They widened my field of view so that I could even see the tips of my ears. Small clusters of tentacles—and I guess sensory organs—bristled along the length of my arms. My mind would have broken if it weren’t for what I heard next.

There were two more hearts that were racing, but not with fear. Their vibrations echoed through the water. Then there were hushed words.

“Mark, we shouldn’t be out here. That maniac could be stalking us. Haven’t you been watching the news?”

“I have been watching the news, Candy. Somebody killed The Overbrook Impaler, so we don’t need to worry. Relax. We’re fine out here.”

“Maybe he was killed by another crazy person, like, someone worse!”

Pure instinct spread through my veins. It felt warm. It felt good. My sister slithered into the water with a grace that made water snakes look clumsy. I slipped in after her where the pulsing lust of the two teens was in my ears. I could taste their sweat and other body fluids in the water. I could smell the iron in their blood. That’s when I completely lost control.

What happened next I only remember in snapshots.

I remember human flesh tearing as easily as wet toilet paper. Ribbons of quivering, living flesh sliding off of bones and vertebrae, contracting like clams ripped from their shells. Hearts that were hammering so fast that they were nearly a constant hum.

A face, looking into mine as the many tentacles at my disposal peeled flesh from around the eyes, no longer able to close without eyelids. No longer able to hide from the horror. No longer able to hide from me.

As you might have guessed, my next moment of awareness was waking up in my bed. As you also might have guessed, I was relieved to think that my memory of mutating and butchering two skinny-dipping teenagers was a dream.

I normally felt hungry after my first trip to the bathroom. I didn’t. I felt sated. There was an aftertaste in my mouth, like the faint flavor of water from a garden hose. Dad poked his head in our bedroom.

“You’re back,” he said.

“Back? I haven’t been anywhere, Dad.”

“You and your sister both went out last night,” he said as he tilted his head towards the open window.

My mouth hung open as I looked to the window, then to my sister. Her eyes were clearer. Awareness and vigor sparkled in them. I could tell she was ‘in there’ again. But they were the eyes of the wolf in that textbook, the eyes of The Overbrook Impaler.

I searched Dad’s face for any of the astonishment or dismay I was feeling. But instead, there was a satisfaction that chilled me. I felt my throat tightening.

“Daddy?” I choked out as my anxiety ramped up.

Only a shred of warmth bled into his eyes. He drew up his lucky key from inside his shirt.

“You’ve always wondered what this was for. It’s finally time that I get to show you. Both of you, come with me to the car.”

Only when Eden obeyed and left the room did I follow.

The car ride was silent.

Alarm bells started going off in my head before I knew what was setting them off. It eventually hit me—we were driving out to where The Impaler had kept us. My disbelief grew as the entrance to the grotto drew near. But we didn’t stop there—We kept going. The road became narrow and treacherous as it wound up to an outcropping of rock that formed a high cliff overlooking the rolling waves of the sea. I saw pieces of yellow police tape caught in the sparse, scraggly vegetation.

I recalled what the policemen had told us about how The Impaler was found—nailed to a high cliff. Dad just managed to park the car somewhere it wouldn’t fall and led the way towards the cliff. There was a set of twisting rough-hewn stairs that were invisible from far away. They carried us to the top of the outcropping, which felt like the top of the world. I felt like I was on the precipice of something ancient, something forbidden. And I was right.

That was the first time I had ever seen Daddy take his lucky key off. He moved several of the stone slabs at his feet and there was a stone door held fast by a rusty but heavy padlock. It yielded to the key with a clunk that sounded like a relic from a forgotten world.

Stone stairs wound down into shadow. As if by magic, strange geometric stones glowed with a cold, quivering light that was both sickly green and pale blue. The steps hinted that we were in a cavern, but the interior was very much lived in. There were paintings on the walls of people that resembled Mommy and Daddy. Worn books lined shelves that were cut from expensive but aging wood. There were also scrolls. Their handles were made of something gleaming white and knobby.

More lights were winking on. They resembled those weird-shaped dice that I had seen people use to play Dungeons and Dragons. We stopped inside some sort of great dome carved inside the rock. There was a great mass of shadow that resisted the lights. But once enough of them were shining, I saw that the shadow was something carved out of the blackest rock I had ever seen. An altar. Twisting, heaving, contorted, porous, a blasphemous mass of shapes that all suggested screams, anguish, and mind-bending terror. Clusters of things resembling evil barnacles and carbuncles and tumors fruited all about the monstrous thing. Even the candles were black, resembling knotted fingers of old men. The only smooth surface was the platform for the offering. It was like an obsidian mirror rimmed with gold. Someone about the altar made me feel like my soul had been bored out and filled with nothing, like a hung and dressed deer.

Daddy reached for something among the Stygian mass of the altar. A shimmering green robe. He slid it on over his clothes and turned to face us as he slowly spread his arms with open palms.

He raised his voice and a bass note caused the entire dome to tremble. He closed his eyes and allowed the lingering vibrations to die off.

“O Father, Daroth-Lygon, Devourer of The Depths. From the blood of our lineage, two new children of the pact awaken. Hunters once again stalk the earth in your name!”

The dome trembled under the power of Daddy’s voice. But then it trembled from something else. Something outside the rock walls. A black cloud congealed over the altar. An opening slid into view from inside the cloud. An eye. It was the size of a beach ball and its gaze rolled from me to my sister. A voice deeper and louder than thunder filled my head and showed me everything I never wanted to know about our family.

I saw the pact that our earliest ancestors made with these horrifying monsters beneath the sea. I saw their palaces in the darkest depths that were furnished with strange shapes meant for the comfort of beings that were nothing like humans. Their walls were carved in bas-reliefs that chronicled a history stretching into aeons, all hidden from human eyes underwater.

In exchange for the blessings of this unspeakable thing, Daroth-Lygon, someone in my lineage had cohabited with its spawn. This meant that every few generations, someone was born with the ability to manifest the likeness of the terrible water deity. But that ability would be dormant until it would be awoken by severe trauma. This was normally inflicted through rituals. I got to see those, too. My ancestors being burned, cut, and yes—impaled—on the night of a full moon until they turned like a werewolf of the water.

In order to hold off the displeasure of Daroth-Lygon, there would need to be Hunters that walked the earth every few generations. At the last, I saw a vision of myself and Eden being held by The Overbrook Impaler. I saw what really happened to us. As soon as he had ripped Eden’s clothes off and driven a spike through one wrist, she turned. He never had a chance to do anything to her past that. She used her new form to mutilate him and still make sure he died in torment, and as slowly as possible. It was that spike in her wrist that mounted him to the rockface of the cliff. Me, hearing Eden’s suffering was enough trauma to cause me to turn. The whole time that I had thought Eden’s body was being penetrated with iron and flesh, The Impaler was being put through an experience authored by the wrath of a little girl turned demon. But I didn’t know that. It was enough to shatter whatever prison held the demon inside of me.

I saw us attacking the teenage lovers in the lake. The missing detail is that we then took their bones stripped of flesh and arranged them at the bottom of the water in a formation around a black obelisk, and an inky blackness manifested to consume those bones as our first offering.

And just like that, we were back in the dome with Daddy. He was removing the green robe, apparently concluding whatever had just taken place.

“Daddy,” I said with shivering lungs.

“Yes, Sommer?”

“That day we were kidnapped… was that supposed to happen?”

Daddy looked down into his hands. “We did the community a favor. Nobody would get suspicious of our family if a notorious serial killer disappeared.”

When I looked at him, he looked every bit like a stranger to me.

“So you planned on having The Impaler find us?”

“We needed a way to bring about your Awakening without drawing attention to us. You surely noticed that The Devourer of The Depths isn’t subtle about his presence. The old Awakening rituals are terribly cruel and drawn out.”

My voice was becoming shrill. “I can’t believe this! What about Braden and Bethany?”

“Your mother tried to discourage them. But it wouldn’t have been like us to refuse them, and that’s a crumb that police could have picked up on.”

“You served us and our friends on a plate to The Impaler! Fresh victims for the worst killer ever!”

“But you’re not victims. You’re hunters.”

And those were the words that froze me inside and out. Daddy had the eyes of a wolf. After the trauma of being prey, I turned around to find out that I was a predator

Braden and Bethany were definitely prey. But like a true predator, Daddy didn’t care. Mom didn’t care. I was appalled at the idea of transforming into a bloodthirsty monster every full moon to butcher, devour, and make an offering to something evil.

But I did. I didn’t have a choice. I was a werewolf. Or… a were-fish? Were-thing?

I was a predator. And I had to obey my nature. Every full moon I, got to pour out my hunger and undiluted rage on people that I probably saw at the grocery store. A few I’m sure were in my school.

Months later, the news was talking about another serial killer on the loose in Overbrook, one that was trying to outdo The Impaler. The police dropped by from time to time to check on Eden and I. Sometimes they asked if we might know anything. But they never suspected that they were chatting with the predators of Overbrook.

Rating: 9.50/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Richard Morgan
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Richard Morgan

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