Dark Target – a short story

Part of Month of the Macabre

click HERE for the content warning and about Month of the Macabre

“Dark Target”
a short story by Jeremy C Kester (All Rights Reserved)
[original draft appeared on site in October 2020]

Clouds covered the moon, masking most of the light that would have been available to see. And she needed to see.

She knew it was there, waiting for her, stalking her. Wounds already covered her flesh from the fight, the brief battle before she could discharge it from her. Fortune had it that it was before the creature bit her, the sure way that she would have lost. It still left her in pain and bleeding. She could only hope that none of the wounds were deep enough to be serious.

Finding the creature was the next order of business. Finding it before it killed her.

She raised her crossbow, the bolt tipped in silver and poison — a special brew made for creatures of evil origin. It attacked the blackened parts of their soul, often resulting in total death of the person infected. No matter. Darkness needed to be expunged, no matter the cost. It only needed to hit the creature — anywhere — in order to have the desired effects. Hitting it was key, however.

Her aim was steady as she scanned the line of trees. Werewolves were not skilled climbers, at least that she knew. It allowed her to ignore anything above her head. That was enough as with the limited light, those beasts blended into the shadows as though they were shadows themselves. She only had her eyes and ears to guide her.

Werewolves could smell her. Blood only made it worse. There was enough of it on her, mostly her own. She downed a potion to mute her odor. In a way it was like making herself less visible to the creature.

Light trickled through, dim, scattered, as she crept along. As soft as she could manage, she placed each step purposefully, as to not alert the creature to her whereabouts. Normally, smell was a bigger concern. Another potion aided with that problem. For everything except sight and sound, she was invisible to the beast. But that didn’t mean she was safe.

Emptiness filled the air. She listened to the wind flowing through the leaves, the sounds of creatures moving through, those unaware yet of the danger, or simply not concerned, as if they all knew that the werewolf was not out for them. Humans were always the prey.

A rustle came from the side. She swung the crossbow over, aligning the shot with the best aim that her hearing allowed. With the moon hidden from view by the clouds, it was impossible to tell if she was truly in aiming at anything but a shadow. Loosing the bolt too soon at a sound alone would be foolish. Waste was not on her mind at the moment.

She peered into the dark, certain that it was clear. Something told her to keep watching, though — to peer into the darkness. That what she was after would be there.

She stepped forward, trying to keep her focus ahead, at the shadows. Was it her imagination? Fear? The nervousness of what she hunted? That thing was there somewhere — that she was certain. Even with it being hidden, the power of the full moon would keep the man transformed, albeit in a weakened state without the full presence of the moon’s light.

Killing the man later wasn’t an option. Doing so would only create a demon wolf, something far more dangerous, and free of the pull of the moon. The werewolf needed to be killed during the night for the curse to be broken.

Another sound echoed ahead, only slightly to the side. She angled herself in time to see the beast lumber out into the clearing and then back again into the darkness before she could line up her shot.

Her breathing was getting heavy as her heart raced. She was alone, in the forest, and with a beast like that stalking her. The gravity of what task she was undertaking clawed at her thoughts. Taking a few steps forward, she cautiously stayed away from the trees themselves. Even a few seconds would give her the time that she needed to react. Tarry too close to them, however, and she would surely be taken.

Once more, the beast stepped out as the moon broke free from the clouds. It was but a moment. One clear moment came to her. She loosed the bolt, sending it at the beast as it charged at her — driven by blood lust, by carnal instinct.

A scream left her throat as she dove to the side, grazed by the huge talons of the creature as it then fell.

She rolled before coming to a stop on her back, a blade drawn as a last resort. It would be a defense that was inadequate at best as it only just saved her once before.

She wouldn’t need it.

She sighed, her body shaking from the encounter. The beast was dissolving before her eyes, illuminated by the thing that once gave it power. Fur and flesh melted. Teeth and talon shrank back. The form of a man came into view, a man breathing the last breaths of his own life. 

Carefully, she raised herself from the ground. Aches riddled her body as the adrenaline of the hunt metabolized in her blood. The sight of what once was beast made her shake more. Each step shivered as it drew her closer. She gazed at the man’s face, then down at the the man’s hand. Tears filled her eyes as she saw the ring matching the one on her own hand.

Story written and owned exclusively by Jeremy C Kester. Do not reprint, copy, or anything other than sharing direct links to this page without written permission from there author.

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