• Published 6th Jul 2016
  • 1,665 Views, 72 Comments

The Wishmaker: Megan's Descent - boardgamebrony



Megan Williams has been living for 20 years without any sign of Equestria from her childhood, until several children go missing. Meanwhile, she finds a terrifying secret in the basement of her barn...a barn which never had a basement before...

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__________________________P a r a n o i a__________________________

The horse ranch was a decaying husk of its former self resting in pieces under a crimson sky. Soft boot falls betrayed the presence of a wandering person with the crunch of broken glass scattered around the sides of the barn opening. The young girl, no older than twelve, stood at the entrance to a place which should’ve been familiar and welcoming. Instead, she stepped into a cavernous interior with impossible dimensions and twisting architecture of wood. The light failed to reach most of the interior as creeping shadows swallowed them up and stopped them before they could fall and lead the lone girl onto a safer place. Here, there was no such thing as a safer path.

She wanted to speak. Wanted to break the silence. But something in the air pressed down heavy and her lungs were warned not to utter a sound. There was a lurking scent in the air. The pungent odor of hidden rot began to break through the floor boards and the moment she looked down, she felt something might be looking up.

“Firefly?” the girl asked. “Is that you? Where are you?” She knelt down and found a ring. She uncovered the hay on the ground and saw a trap door with worn edges and various faded symbols. Six symbols stood on the door and all were scratched out. She placed her hand over them and felt the marks. Something had carved the symbols out with grave intent, and the amount of slashes across the surface bespoke of a ferocity which drove the mysterious causer to commit such an impassioned act. She reached down and tugged on the entry ring as she attempted to pull it up. It was too heavy. She tried again. No use. She heard movement below and wondered what await her in the barn basement. Still, she had to try once more.

Arms reached down from behind her and placed themselves on the ring over her own hands. “Don’t be afraid,” a voice said from behind. The door was lifted merely a few inches. A pair of yellow eyes shone in the darkness below.

Megan Williams woke up with a start. In a snap reaction, she reached out near the side of her bed, pulled up a shotgun and held it across her chest. She looked around the room with a panting panic as though she had run a mile. It was still dark outside but the sun was starting to appear on the horizon ever so slightly. She controlled her breathing and grabbed an asthma inhaler off the nightstand. She put it up to her mouth and sprayed as she inhaled and felt the medicine work its way into her system. She settled down almost immediately and looked outside at the barn.

“No,” she said as she turned back to the interior of the room. “I’m not opening it today.” She stood up, grabbed a flashlight and pointed it down the hallway. It was still early. She didn’t have to start her daily chores right now, but she wouldn’t dare go back to sleep. She took a shower, ate breakfast, read the newspaper and did everything she could to get her mind off the dream she had. She eyed the local events column and saw what was happening in the nearby cities.

There was the upcoming 2004 Horse Race and Charity Showcase, but Megan had stopped taking care of horses almost a decade before. She eyed the article longingly and sighed. Her hand trailed to a heart pendant on her neck. She flipped it open and looked at a picture of her and a small pony before closing it again. “Maybe one day again,” she said to no one. The house appeared to creak back in response and Megan felt herself tense up for almost a full minute before she calmed down and continued reading.

Today, no matter how much she pushed herself, she just couldn’t seem to get her chores down. The cows were restless. Megan could not calm their anxiety no matter how much she talked to them. Dogs barked at shadows at the edge of the woods. Megan kept a rifle close and eyed the shadows through the scope. The four legged creatures seemed like they might be wild dogs. Maybe. And because her mind was elsewhere, Megan spilled an entire ten pound bag of chicken feed far before she made it anywhere close to the chicken coop. The chickens did not mind and feasted mightily where the food lay. There was another bag in the barn.

Megan had walked halfway to the barn when she stopped and realized where she was going. She eyed the closed doors and the chains tied around the outer handles. Saw the attic window with its boarded up edges. Saw the side door with a heavy load of firewood piled up against it. She turned to step away and thought she would go to town for extra supplies today.

---- ----

The Bonnieville Library was Megan’s favorite place in the entire town. It was quiet, few people ever went there, and she could read all the fantasy books she wanted. There were computers too, but she wasn’t a fan of using them, even though many of the other patrons had started to ignore the books in favor or online forums and games. As long as they didn’t talk to Megan, she had nothing to say to them.

The librarian knew her well. The two chatted about various small things, but even then, Megan was quick to get the books she wanted. She went to the fantasy section and pulled out some titles as she whispered to herself.

“Ohh Acorna the Unicorn Girl. I love this series...” She had often imagined what it would be like to be half-unicorn, half human and had smiled at the thought. Another thought began to encroach on the pleasant one and she pushed it away, looking at the book cover. “How would I walk with hooves like that?” Megan asked, noticing that the unicorn girl had foot hooves but a mostly human body. She occupied her mind with trivialities until the unpleasant thought passed by, unable to disturb her if she didn’t look directly at it.

She saw several other Acorna books in sequence after the first one and decided to check them all out. She could read them in her most anxious moments and feel a certain happiness from the fiction as it soothed her mind. She had written her own stories, dozens of them over the years, but never shared them with anyone. Sometimes she was human. Sometimes she was more. She pulled down the next three books in the series and stopped in mid-reach for the fourth one when she caught sight of something beyond the case in the next aisle.

She saw the back of someone’s head. Normally this would not be an issue. But this person was standing upright and not moving. Something about their posture made her very nervous. She wanted to say something to check on them. She slowly moved away and walked around the corner, peering into the next aisle.

A young man looked down at a book in his hands, nearly unmoving, as his eyes scanned the page. He finally turned it to a new section as he looked up at Megan who ducked back into the previous aisle, and the next one after that, and after that, until she was on the far opposite end of the library where the awkward situation would resolve itself naturally.

She stopped near the research tables when she saw several newspapers scattered about. Megan had taken ownership of the library since she was a frequent patron and felt it her duty to keep things tidy. She started to gather up the newspapers when an article caught her eye:

TWO CHILDREN MISSING, PARENTS SUSPECT KIDNAPPING

It was a tragic story, no doubt, with a title like. Still, there was nothing particularly stand-out about the title concerning Megan’s own life. She felt sorry for the kids, and yet...something nagged at the back of her mind. She quickly scanned the article and found that the two kids had gone missing under similar circumstances. Both were last seen in their homes. There was no sign of forced entry and strangely enough, no sign of exit. The children appeared to have disappeared into thin air.

“Horrible, isn’t it?” the librarian whispered to Megan from behind, causing her to jump. “Sorry my dear. Didn’t know you were so jumpy today.” The kind older woman with the bespeckled expression and bony form looked at Megan with concern.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Zacherle,” Megan said as she put the paper down. “I was just thinking...about the article.”

“Did you hear about the clues the kids left before they were taken?”

Megan looked through the article as she spoke. “I don’t see anything here about clues...what do you mean?”

“It’s an older article about three different children from last month. Had the same situation. No sign of a break-in. No suspects,” Zacherle said.

Megan looked up, now incredibly interested. “Five kids in two months with the same scenario?”

“Yes ma’am,” Zacherle said. Her voice quivered with the strain of age and fatigue. “And the clues are really strange. Two of the three kids talked to their parents about wanting to go somewhere. Some strange hooey about wishing to visit an imaginative place that they always wanted to go to. I don’t know. Here, let me show it to you.”

It took an agonizing fifteen minutes for Zacherle to finish with customers and finally get the newspaper hardcopies she had. Apparently, the library had not heard of photo archiving anything. Megan sat down and read while the librarian attended to her duties. The mother of one of the kids had a very distraught interview, even on paper, which went into greater detail:

My little Laura kept telling me she was going to meet the Princess. I thought she was playing a game, but I think whoever took her was promising her these...these things so she’d agree to go. She said she wished for it and it came true and she had to prepare. I thought it was a game! My little Laura always played games. Why didn’t I listen…

“Princess...” Megan said. The wording made her very nervous. It couldn’t be, she thought. No…

She pulled out another article the librarian had given her. The story was very similar. A little girl had been told by someone she didn’t name that she could see a Princess in a beautiful castle if she only asked for it. A night after she asked, she was gone. And the house had no sign of break-in or any note left by a kidnapper. Something was missing. Some key detail. Princess...Princess who? Princess what? Megan thought. She looked back at the article to see if she’d missed anything when her eye stopped on the included photograph. The photojournalist had taken a picture of the two parents talking to investigators in the child’s room. In the background was a large group of pictures. The photo quality wasn’t very good, but there was something strange about the images the little girl drew. Megan looked down at the end of the article.

If you want to learn more about this case, visit the official newspaper website at…

Megan went over to a computer and checked the website. She looked up the article by name and found the same image on their page, only it was in color and much higher quality. She zoomed in to the background and saw several images with names written slightly off. Megan could still read them.

“Princess...Twilight?” she said. “They can’t possibly mean...” She examined the images on the wall and found one with a purple pony wearing a crown as it stood at the end of a rainbow. “No that...that’s not right.”

“Shhh!” Someone said next to her. She stopped talking aloud and printed out the images and online article, along with anything else she could find. She quickly left the library and drove home.

----

At her ranch, Megan nearly kicked herself when she realized she had forgotten to buy chicken feed to replace the bag she spilled. It was nearly dark and she still had some chores to do. Going back to town would eat up the rest of the time. She left the printouts from the library in her truck and stared at the barn.

She took out her inhaler and took two breaths before pocketing it again and walking up to the chained front door. “Just...just get the feed and get out.” She started to undo the chain when she heard movement inside. She stopped, then quickly re-wrapped the chain and stood back. She heard no more movement. The top window was still completely boarded up with no point of entry and the side door was still completely blocked by firewood.

Megan went back to her truck, pulled out her shotgun, got her flashlight, and taped the flashlight to the bottom of the gun barrel. She turned it on, loaded the gun with three shells and cocked it. Then she grabbed her sheathed bowie knife, strapped it to her belt, and walked back to the front of the barn, confident she could now take-on anything that was behind those doors.

She looked at the sun as it started to lower on the horizon. She didn’t have a lot of time to finish her daily routine and it would make the next day a lot harder if she didn’t get it done soon. With her shotgun lowered in one arm, she used her free hand to slowly unwrap the chain until both ends swung freely, now leaving the door free to open. Megan steadied the shotgun with one arm as she grabbed the handle and pulled. It slowly creaked open as she put both hands on the gun and pointed the barrel towards the interior of the darkened barn. The beam illuminated the inside, shining upon the ground covered in hay and shimmering bits of something else. The door finally opened all the way and Megan waited. She sweeped the light back and forth across the interior, and then up into the rafters above and into the attic area. Nothing moved.

Megan wanted to say something. Wanted to break the silence. But something in the air pressed down heavy and her lungs were warned not to utter a sound. There was a lurking scent in the air. The pungent odor of hidden rot began to break through the floor boards and the moment she looked down, she felt something might be looking up.

She aimed the gun at every corner until a gust of wind pushed the door closed, cutting her off from the outside light. She gasped and felt her heart rate accelerate quickly as she moved to the door and pressed her back against it. She pushed on its surface, but it wouldn’t budge. She placed a boot against it and kicked. The sound was loud and uncomfortable. Dust fell from the rafters and Megan pointed the light up. Something stared down at her with large, shining eyes.

“AH!” Megan yelled as she fired a shotgun blast into the ceiling. The thing fell down and into a stack of hay. A rain of dust poured down from above. Red stained the yellow as Megan pointed her light down at the thing. She felt her heart drop when she realized she’d killed a barn owl.

“Dammit,” she said. She walked over to the front door and pushed on it as she moved outward. She closed the door on the outside, chained it closed and walked back to the house. “Poor little thing,” she said to herself. “I’m so sorry little one.” She got some gloves from her ranch house, then grabbed a trash bag and shovel. She moved back to the barn to prepare to bury the poor creature. She undid the chain, held the shotgun lazily in her arms and opened the door. She pointed the light back the spot where the owl had fallen. And kept looking.

Where is it? She thought. She saw the red trail down from the hay stack and into the floor. The line of blood moved across the ground and stopped at a point in the center of the room. There was no owl there. Where did it go?

Megan put down the shovel and small items and slowly approached the spot with her shotgun pointed at the blood trail. She kicked away the excess hay with her boot. She knelt down and found a ring. She uncovered the hay on the ground and saw a trap door with worn edges and various faded symbols. This is very familiar..., Megan thought. Six symbols stood on the door and all were scratched out. She placed her hand over them and felt the marks. Something isn’t right... Something had carved the symbols out with grave intent, and the amount of slashes across the surface bespoke of a ferocity which drove the mysterious causer to commit such an impassioned act. It can’t be... She reached down and tugged on the entry ring as she attempted to pull it up. It was too heavy. She tried again. No use. She heard movement below and wondered what awaited her in the barn basement. Until she realized she didn't have a basement in her barn.

In one fluid act, Megan stood up and spun around with her gun pointed towards the entryway. The dying light of the day poured into the area. She waited. She moved her light around the barn interior. Where are you? She thought as she moved wildly, searching every corner. I know you’re here! You were here last night! In the dream! SOMEONE came up behind me and put their arms around me! She pivoted in place wildly. Then she stopped.

A crazy thought came into her head. Something about the article she had read. The kids had wished for...what? It couldn’t work. Couldn’t possibly make a difference. The disappearances had to be caused by human kidnappers. Nothing else. But part of her wanted to believe there was still some strangeness left. That if she tried what they did just once, maybe, just maybe, it could happen for her too. And maybe those kids were okay and would return. Like she had all those years ago. But why now, in this darkened barn that haunted her dreams? Perhaps...that was the reason itself. The dream. Maybe, in a way, somebody was putting their arms around her within her own mind, telling her “Don’t be afraid.”

She stared down at the plate in the floor. She definitely did not have a basement. That much was true. So what was this? And why was it here? She turned back to the front door. Still no one.

She cocked her shotgun, preparing a shell and manually loaded another.

Gotta be ready. Always ready, she thought. Then another fearful thought entered her mind. In the dream, there were yellow eyes staring at her from underneath the floor. If she opened the trapdoor, would those eyes be there? And yet, the owl had yellow eyes. Maybe her mind had thought the owl was the threat in the barn, and that was true. Kinda. It didn’t really provide a threat at all. But...it’s body was still missing. And the trail lead to the lip of the floor opening. An opening she could not move herself. Yet the owl had found its way underneath. Or...no...no there couldn’t possibly be…

“Hey,” Megan said staring down at the trapdoor. The word was half-hearted and fearful. She tried again with more force. “HEY!” It was better to her ears. “I know you’re down there! Maybe you’re a drifter or an intruder or whatever-the-hell you are. I’m armed and I own this property. So if you want out without any questions asked, you show yourself now. Otherwise, I’ll come in there and get you myself.”

There was a wild skittering below. Megan’s breathing stopped. Her mouth hung open. “Oh..okay,” she said to herself. “So it’s...a scavenger. Some little animal.” She didn’t believe herself for a second. She moved over to the trapdoor and grabbed the handle with one hand. It was no use. It was far too heavy. She put the shotgun down, the light pointed away towards an uninteresting corner of the barn, as she clamped both hands down on the trapdoor with nothing but encroaching darkness filling the entrance behind her. She turned and saw the sun almost touching the horizon. She looked back at the ground. She pulled. There was a crack as it lifted up just enough for musty air to come from below. But it still too dark to look without a light. Megan slowly stood up and lifted the cover to its apex. It stayed upright and perfectly still. Nothing glowed in the basement that shouldn’t exist. She picked up her shotgun, with the light pointed at the ceiling. She could hear her heartbeat in her ears. She pointed the gun down as the flashlight cast itself over the opening.

She saw the ladder trailing down into darkness. Her light reflected off its dusty form. She turned the light and stepped around the opening. Megan furrowed her brow and moved around again. No matter how hard she tried, she could not see a bottom. Her heart began to race. This can’t be, she thought. This doesn’t make any sense. She put the safety on her shotgun and hung it around her back thanks to the leather strap. She picked up a small stray piece of wood in the barn, held it over the opening, and released it. The wood fell quietly into the abyss below. Megan waited. And waited. She looked around the room and then back down with the tiniest bit of light coming in from the entryway of the barn. It had been at least a full minute and the wood had not made a sound. That’s impossible, she thought.

She could tell someone. She could close the trapdoor, walk out right now and leave. Then come back with an entire investigative team who could figure out the strangeness for themselves.

I’m going to do that, Megan said to herself. She walked back to the entryway of the barn. The door slammed shut from the wind. Megan nearly yelped in surprise, but she calmed herself down and pushed on the door like last time. She kept pushing. It didn’t budge. She started to kick the door but it did not move an inch.

She pushed with all of her strength and caught herself listening to the outside. The chain couldn’t possibly be moving on its own, could it? The door had just slammed by the wind. Of course it could, swinging slowly on the outside. But her mind went into overdrive. It sounded like the chain was tightening.

“HEY!” Megan said as she shook the door. “Is someone there?” she pounded on the door. “This isn’t funny!” She listened. There was no sound. “Look just...take what you want from the house. Just let me out!” There was no more sound outside. No even wind.

Megan felt her breathing increase in intensity. She pulled out her inhaler, puffed it twice into her mouth and then put it away. She pulled out her shotgun and pointed the light at the rafters. To her surprise, she saw metal plating bolted against the top window and the side door. From the inside.

“Wha...” she said to herself. She walked over to the side door and tried to pull the metal plate off. It was stuck in place perfectly, and when she thought she had made some leeway, it felt as though a powerful force was pushing it back into place.

Shoot off the wooden sides, Megan thought. She pulled out her shotgun and pointed it at the side of the room, until the light fell upon a break in the wooden siding. Something reflected back. Megan approached the breach and stared. She placed her hand on the surface beyond the broken wooden wall.

This is...this is metal. Solid metal, she said as she stepped back. What is happening? Megan couldn’t believe it. She didn’t remember ever putting reinforced metal plates on the exterior of the barn. No, Megan thought. I’m imagining this. My doctor said this happens sometimes. The world doesn’t make sense because my imagination takes over...just like they said all those years ago… She stood back and kicked at the metal plating. It made a loud, deep sound, but her repeated kicking of the wall yielded no results.

I’m in a nightmare, Megan thought. She pointed the gun back at the opening in the floor as the light shone upon the trapdoor. No sound issued from below. Dammit, Megan thought.

She walked around the room and found everything she thought could be useful. An oil lamp still hung on a support beam with some fuel left in it. She looped the handle of the lantern through her belt and let it hang down, currently turned off. She found some matches next to where the oil lantern was and pocketed the tiny case. She tied a lasso she found to the side of her belt. Megan found a large mechanic’s wrench hanging on the wall. It was rusted, but it would do. She placed it heavy-side down in her hip pocket and noticed half of it stuck out. She put the working gloves in her back pocket, folded up the bag and pocketed it as well. She looked at the shovel then at her rather impressive assortment of items. She put the shovel pole end down between her outer jacket and her inner shirt as she buttoned her jacket closed, sealing it in place. The head of the shovel hovered above her own, forming a makeshift shield for the back of her head.

She tapped the side of her pocket as she thought about how else to prepare. She felt the small book of matches and nodded to herself. Megan walked over to several bails of hay and launched them down into the abyss below. She dropped five bails before before she thought it was enough. She stared at the open portal to the underworld below as the flashlight beam bounced off the metal from the ring used to pull it open. I bet that thing will close when I go down, she thought. I know how nightmares work. She found a heavy chain in the tool area and looped the chain through the metal ring and behind a support pillar, where she locked it into place with a lock she had with the tools. She pocketed the key.

Megan stepped over to the hole and pointed the flashlight down below. She wanted to preserve power, but she couldn’t risk climbing in the dark. She kept the shotgun strapped behind her, pointed down into the ladder below her, which was very difficult considering she now had a shovel sticking down the back of her jacket. She carefully crawled to the edge of the hole into the abyss, pulled her foot down into the opening and found the first rung. She breathed a sigh of relief, worried that the ladder would completely disappear beneath her. The idea froze her in her tracks.

What if I’m wrong, she thought. What if this is all a hallucination and I could walk out her right now. What if this is just...a hole in the ground and I’m about to fall? She was thinking too hard. She tapped the ladder rung with her foot and it made a solid sound. This feels real. It has to be, even if it doesn’t make sense. Equestria was real back then. It has to be real now. But...this can’t be Equestria. Where am I going?

She felt nervous hanging so close to the edge. It was now or never. She slowly moved down until she could hold on to the lip of the opening with her hands. She clasped the bottom rungs with her legs in case she slipped and then grasped the topmost handle with her hands. She breathed a sigh of relief and started her trek down the ladder.


This has to be a dream, she thought.

There is no way this could be real.

I’ve had so many problems.

My doctor told me I would have trouble discerning reality from fantasy, but…

he didn’t believe me when I talked about Equestria.

I know it’s real.

It has to be.

I have Firefly’s picture in my pendant with me.

That’s not a trick.

I don’t care if people don’t believe me.

I’ve lived two decades alone.

I’ve lost relationships.

I’ve lost friends.

I’ve lost so many things…

Just because I wouldn’t give up.

Well today this is proof that something more exists.

I don’t know where I’m going,

but I know it’s the proof I need to show everyone

that I’m not crazy.

I was so happy…

Why did I have to leave?

Of course…

My parents.

They were afraid for me.

I had been gone for so long

they thought something horrible had happened to me.

I was so sorry

but they didn’t believe where I had been

even after I showed them the picture.

Their fear over-rid their logic.

The first psychiatrist visit was the worst.

I tried so hard to get them to believe me

but no matter how much I tried,

it just seemed to make things worse.

“You can’t distinguish fantasy from reality,” he said.

“You created a whole world,

because you can’t face this one.”

I didn’t have to create a world to run away from this place.

It was already there.

Applejack…

Twilight Sparkle…

Firefly…

If you’re here somewhere,

I’m going to find you.

And then,

finally,

we’ll be happy again.

I’ll be happy again.

Wait a minute...

How long have I been going downwards?

It has to have been five minutes by now.

There’s no way this can exist.

I should have reached the bottom by now.

Megan stopped. She looked down at the ladder below her. She could see...something far down. The light reached just far enough to reveal a landing about fifty feet below her. She felt relief overtake her. She heard a tinking sound, like something hitting metal. It didn’t make sense. She looked around and the sound was clearly coming from above her. Tink. Tink. Tink. Tink Tink. Tink Tink. It was slowly accelerating its pace. No, something couldn’t possibly be moving up there on the ladder. She looked down and quickened her pace.

This can’t be happening.

Is something really after me?

Or am I imagining it?

It’s moving so fast.

I can’t keep up with it.

I can hear it...

closer now.

I can’t let it catch me!

Not before I get to Equestria.

Is that…

Is that breathing?

It’s stalking me!

I have to hurry!

Move

Move

MOVE

NOW

IT’S SO CLOSE

THE BOTTOM

Megan was two rungs away from the bottom when she jumped onto the ground and landed. She rolled over. Her copious amount of items jangled and stopped her movement as she stared up. She pulled the shotgun over her shoulder and pointed the light at the ladder. And waited.

There was no sound from the ladder above her.

Did...did I imagine it? Was my own movement shaking the ladder farther up the top? She blinked and pulled herself up to her feet. She looked down at the ground. At the bottom of the ladder was the same trapdoor design that she had entered through, only there was no ring. The six symbols mirrored the ones above, except they were in pristine shape with no scratches at all. She examined them closely and recognized them from...somewhere far off in her mind. She stood up and started walking around with the flashlight shining the path in front of her. She nearly had a heart attack when she saw the bails of hay she had thrown, as most of them had collapsed upon impact into small piles. She made note of them for later and kept walking. The floor was made of wood and creaked with each step. She pointed her light upwards and stopped.

No, she said. I just came from here!

The barn looked exactly the same. For all Megan knew, it was the same. Every beam, every corner, every mark in the wall and the floor. Besides the fact that it was barren of items, it was exactly as she left it. She saw the front door and walked up to it. She reached out her hand.

It opened.

It moved slowly back and forth, slightly ajar, as the wind pushed it around. Megan reached out and pushed it aside with her hand. The creek of the old hinges ground on her nerves as she stepped over the threshold and into the night.

There were no stars. There was no moon. And yet, somehow, light pervaded the atmosphere. A very subtle crimson glow filled the air. It was as if blood has been sprayed into the environment and every droplet cast its own fleeting glow, always on the verge of snuffing out. About twenty feet ahead, the dark shapes of trees in lines spanned deep into a field. They held no leaves and their branches twisted into claw-like shapes with rotten fruit in their grasps. The ground was littered with decaying cores. Megan knelt down and examined one. It had been eaten. They all had. And the remains were left to rot.

Megan’s mind failed to comprehend what she was seeing as she walked forward in near silence with only the sound of her own footfalls to keep her company. The slow rhythm of her movement was like a persistent heart beat, quiet and cautious, with each step more tense than the last. What was this place and why was it so unsettling? She had seen crops struck with famine before. And yet, none had been cast in this eternal glow of crimson anxiety which filled her heart now.

She trained her flashlight on the area in front of her and walked forward with the gun held at the ready. She took the safety off and stared around behind every tree. She passed a small overturned wooden cart with barrels of apples all eaten to their cores in front of them. Then she heard it. It was unmistakable.

Something was moving out in the orchard.

Megan turned her flashlight towards the sound. Something walked behind a tree. It wasn’t even paying attention to her. She saw it walk out from the opposite end and sniff down at something in the grass.

Oh, she thought to herself. It’s just a small horse. She stared a little longer as it walked across her field of view. It’s body was gray, almost silver in its slick sheen. It had proportions which seemed a little off for a normal horse. As it moved closer while sniffing the ground, she saw that it’s hooves were scratched and cut up. The tail hair was nearly gone and there was no mane to speak of. The ears twitched this way and that as it scanned the ground with its nose for something. Megan could barely make out shadows around the eyes as it turned away and headed in the opposite directly very slowly, all while keeping its mouth close to the ground.

She felt sorry for the poor animal, lost alone in a horrid environment. It was probably scared and searching for any food it could scavenge. She stared up at the nearby tree. The apples were mostly rotten. She found one that looked...acceptable. It still had some solid skin. The horse could make use of it, no doubt. She clicked the safety on her gun and put it back over her shoulder as she pulled out the shovel. She poked the apple on its branch until it fell to the ground. Megan moved to pick it up when she saw the pony heading towards the apple. She smiled at its familiar equine form in the red low-light as it sniffed around for the fallen morsel. Megan kicked it closer to the horse and saw its ears perk at the sound. Its head followed the roll of the apple, but the ears seemed more attentive than the eyes. The more she thought about it, the more it seemed the eyes were extremely hard to see in the low light, almost as if they were two black shadows that the crimson glow couldn’t penetrate. Megan wanted to see, so she leaned the shovel against the nearby tree and slowly pulled the shotgun off her shoulder again. She didn’t want her movement to spook the creature. She waited until it started to eat so she could turn the light back on.

It was odd, though. In the low red light, she could see the apple at least a good two feet away from the pony’s snout. It sniffed and she heard something...slither until the apple started to move towards the pony’s teeth and into its mouth. It bit down and ate heartily, but the jaw wasn’t right. It moved around too much and the teeth seemed dislocated. There was a growing tension in Megan’s chest. She pulled out her inhaler and took one puff. And stopped.

As soon as the inhaler made a noise, the pony’s ears shot up. It picked up its head and stared straight at her, only three feet away.

With a dead-on stare now, Megan could clearly see, even in the low-light, that something was very wrong. She couldn’t see any eyes reflect back. There was nothing in those hollow cavities. The eyes were gone. But the ears moved wildly, searching. She looked at her inhaler. And dropped it. She nearly gasped but caught herself as the creature stared down were the inhaler hit the ground. It moved to sniff the area. Megan saw what was going to happen and knelt down. She grasped the inhaler first while it was still a good two feet away. But something slimy touched her hand and she gasped as she stepped back in shock.

The ears of the pony shot up again, but this time, a raspy moan filled the air. Megan held the inhaler in one hand and the shotgun in the other. The flashlight was not on. The pony started to move towards Megan slowly and with grave intent. It couldn’t see, but the eyeless stare in the crimson glow caught her attention and held it. Megan felt her chest start to heave as she tried not to make noise. She moved the gun to her other hand and, while still grasping the inhaler, clicked on the flashlight. She pointed it at the pony.

NO!

It...it’s not possible. What am I looking at? This thing...this isn’t a pony. The light doesn’t even penetrate the darkness in the eye sockets! It’s staring and it sees nothing. Those ears are moving. It’s searching for me. I can’t...I can’t breathe…

Megan started to gasp for air as the pony’s mouth began to open. And kept opening further and further as the jaw unhinged like a snake with dripping fangs on top and bottom. A whip-like tongue hung out between the teeth with ends flailing towards its prey. Bits of previous feasts clung to the sides of the teeth. There were bones caught between them.

As a reflex, she dropped the inhaler as she held on to the shotgun with two hands.

I...I can’t shoot it. After all this time, the first thing I see and...I can’t shoot it…

The tongue grasped forward and snagged the edge of the shotgun. It’s pull was so strong Megan yanked forward a few feet as the gun flew into its mouth and out of her grasp. The taste repulsed the creature as it spit out the weapon onto the ground and immediately started listening again. Megan’s breathing was becoming loud and it knew. It charged at the sound. Megan side-stepped behind a tree and watched its whip-tongue snatch at the air where she had been standing only seconds before. Her panicked breathing did not stop. She couldn’t calm it without her inhaler. And it was somewhere on the ground, in the dark.

The creature turned back and growled. The teeth were visible in the low light and glinted like daggers. The eyes were empty and merciless.

Megan turned and ran. It followed.

She darted behind trees and felt her lungs betraying her every move. No matter how quiet her steps were, she couldn’t stop gasping. The thing moved behind and when she turned to see it, it wasn’t running. The legs were popping and locking, as though they were breaking with each movement, snapping and contorting and never ceasing to move no matter how vicious their own actions. It was like watching a doll come to life, forcing its body to move in inhuman and unnatural ways. The maw moaned in gurgling anger.

Megan kept running and her breathing worsened. She stood behind a tree and saw its snapping movement as she turned back.

Calm down calm down calm down breath Megan BREATH and calm down it’s coming stop making noise or it’ll find you calm down calm down

She heard it’s motions nearby. It heard her and she moved to the next tree. It moved towards the first one and then started tracking her again when her breathing started upon once more. She fought back tears.

No stay away please leave me alone come on calm down why won’t this thing stop I can’t I can’t I CAN’T I need my inhaler or this will never stop

She peered into the distance. A small beam of light was illuminating a fallen apple cart about a hundred feet away.

THAT’S IT

Megan bolted past the tree.

Something wrapped itself around her right arm.

She panicked and saw the creature peering from behind a tree. It’s whip-tongue grasped her arm and squeezed, causing her to cry out in agony. The thing gurgled in anticipation and anger. She couldn’t help but look at the dark eye sockets as the maw opened so wide she thought it would engulf her whole body.

NO NO she fell to the ground STOP and fought to keep it back PLEASE but the creature moved forward and HELP ME tugged with all its might SOMEBODY PLEASE Megan grasped the nearest tree and held on ARGH but the pain of her twisting arm caused her to let go THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING She looked down and saw the bowie knife in the sheath on her hip I CAN’T DIE She grasped it and frantically unbuttoned the clasp NO NO and pulled the knife out of its sheath as her boot touched the hoof of the beast NO It brought her left arm up to its mouth.

She slashed the large Bowie knife across the tongue, severing the organ as Megan fell back to the ground with the useless tongue now sprawled out amongst the rotting apples. The creature howled in pain so loudly it echoed into the night. Blood sprayed out of its wounded mouth as it howled in fury. Megan got up and ran towards the light tied to her shotgun. She bolted past the trees and came to a halt in front of the gun. She sheathed her knife, picked up the shotgun and swung it around on the ground nearby. A small glint of white caught her attention. She picked up her inhaler and stared around. She saw the beast wobbling through the tree line, making its way toward her frantic gasping only ten yards away. She puffed the medicine into her lungs and pocketed the inhaler as she moved behind a tree. Her breathing began to calm down as the creature turned to search for her only yards away. She moved behind the fallen apple cart and felt her breathing under control once again. She kicked over the cart as its noisy fall clattered in front of the beast. It stopped and charged the cart, slamming its maw down on the wood and severing it instantly. It spit out the material and turned its ears around, desperate. It’s mouth was gushing blood, covering the bottom of its maw in a sticky ichor that absorbed all light. Megan pointed her flashlight at it. It didn’t react and began searching as she breathed steadily and quietly. It walked forward, its ears picking up the sound. She lowered her breathing and kept the gun pointed at it. It moved a little closer, its head popping with unearthly snaps as its joints forced themselves into an unceasingly movement of pain. It moaned in fury as the hiss of its mouth spewed blood onto the ground. Megan steeled herself as it stepped only feet away with mouth open. The light projected right into its colossal jaws but Megan’s anger at the beast was enough to overcome her fear.

“Here,” she whispered quietly.

It turned it’s head in her direction with mouth open.

She stuck the gun in its maw and the light disappeared into the back of its throat.

She pulled the trigger.

A fountain of gore and white light erupted into the crimson night. Its jaw blew apart as the brain exploded outward and into the sky. The shotgun blast tore through the upper torso, ripping apart tendons, bone and organs as they sprayed across the fallen apple cart and every nearby tree behind the beast. It’s body snapped once at the fatal trauma as the explosion of skin, bone and tissue silenced the creature’s moans forever.

The body of the beast collapsed to the ground and it moved no more.

Megan stepped back and put herself against the tree as she felt her breathing return to normal. She cocked the shotgun and loaded another round. Tears issued from her eyes as she slid down to the bottom of the tree trunk and started bawling, the shotgun held in front of her.

There was a massive howl of fury at the edge of the orchard. Then another. And another. Until howls erupted from all sides. Megan stood up, eyes alert and scanning. She shook her head, grabbed the shovel from the nearby tree and placed it behind her underneath her jacket, back in its rightful position. She looked around the area, picked a direction, and ran. The howls followed.

---- ----

Author's Note:

Megan’s inventory as of the end of this chapter:

- One Asthma inhaler with some medicine left
- Regular Rancher’s attire and boots (including a belt and outer leather jacket)
- Remington 12-gauge Shotgun with 3 shells (one in the chamber, 1 in reserve, no extras)
- Bowie knife in sheath on hip strapped onto belt
- Rope Lasso 25 feet in length tied to belt
- Flashlight duct-taped to the bottom end of the shotgun barrel, with somewhat-used batteries
- Old Oil Lantern with some oil left looped on belt
- Small book of matches in hip pocket
- Large, Rusted Mechanic’s Wrench in hip pocket
- Working Gloves in back pocket
- A Trash Bag in back pocket
- A shovel secured on her back, with head of shovel functioning as shield for back of head

- 5 bails of hay tossed down into the abyss in the Other Barn
- Key to lock holding chain together that keeps trapdoor up instead of falling

Extra Story Details

Writing Time for This Chapter: Approx. 6 hours and 20 minutes
Draft Number: 1 Draft
Setting: ????
Themes: Horror

Note: This is an "A" story, written first during a day of writing.

Story Notes:
I loved writing this, but it was tough getting that tension up over time. I'm not used to writing such ongoing tension. O.o