The Most Terrifying Animal – Daniel Hansen
I was walking alone in the thin strip of woodland that runs along side of the park exactly half way between our two houses. The woods that you can just see your house from. It was the day after Easter and there was not a soul around. The ground was still hard from winters embrace but the sun dappled the cracked dirt foot path with warm light. It was the first time the sun had broken through the grey sky for over a month; it was exactly two weeks after you told me you did not want to see me anymore.
I must confess that I had not been doing very well the two weeks before Easter Sunday, friends expressed concern with my behaviour and some bonds may have been irreversibly damaged. However Easter Sunday I awoke feeling reborn, the irony of this was not lost on me even in the moment. My soul was only lightened further by the glorious sunshine that came out the next day and I knew I must get outside and into the spring air. I walked to the woods without conscious decision, as if I was guided there.
As an unseen bird chirped high in a tree high above me then took flight with the soft yet chaotic sound of wings batting against tree branches; I had the most vivid daydream. I imagined that I had giant wings myself; they unfolded from my back and easily spanned the breath of the path. The spreading of my wings felt good, like stretching your back after a long nights sleep, my wings glowed in the sunbeams.
When I shook myself from the day dream and opened my eyes a baby rabbit had hopped from the under growth onto the path. It stopped to wash its face. It knew I was no threat. I felt still. I felt part of everything and everything was part of me. I felt the air stir and the roots push through the soil. This was my most holy moment. The moment was fleeting. The rabbit bolted and everything changed.
A chill wormed its way through my spin, turning my skin to goose flesh as it travelled. A shape crashed through the bushes below me. It was too fast to identify. I took it to be a large black dog, but my fear continued to grow until it had fully engulfed me. Like a character in a horror film, I followed my fear. I picked my way numbly down the tree studded bank, eyes saucer wide and heart thudding in my throat.
I found it suddenly then, stopped by a bush, still as the dead. What I first took to be a dog I saw was in fact a jet black nearly man sized creature. It hunched on all fours, sniffing at the ground in front of it. Its leathery skin was taught and knotted; its claws kneaded the earth. It made a low guttural growling sound deep in its throat.
As I moved it stopped to cock an ear, but it was not yet looking at me.
It was not yet looking for me. It did not notice me as it crawled slowly away snorting at the ground trying to pick up the scent of what it was hunting.
I am not ashamed to confess relief as this hideous beast distanced itself from me but then in a moment of terrible enlightenment I realized several things at once. I realized it was searching for you. I realized it was pure and undiluted evil and I realized I was its opposite. It struck like a lightening bolt that I was here to be the balance to that foul animal, that I was pure good. Hot unbearable terror swallowed me whole in the moment I then realized that I had to fight this creature and I struggled not to fall to my knees. I steadied myself against an old oak tree; its rough sharp bark digging into my palm grounded me and gave me new strength.
A strong breeze brought the tops of the trees high above into dancing life, like god’s hand tussling the hair of the universe. I lunged forward with a deep shuddering breath that rasped down my throat, I leapt arms out stretched towards an unknown fate. My neck jolted violently and painfully back as the side of my head collided with the rib cage of my enemy. I had struck my target with a surprising force and accuracy, even as we crashed over each other and the undergrowth I managed to feel a small flicker of pride bloom amongst the fear. My body came to a sliding holt before the creature’s, it slam hard against a tree trunk with a piercing and sickening shriek that echo beneath the canopy of newly budded leaves. Forcing myself up onto my knees I realized I had no further attack plan, the animal had sharp teeth and claws, I had soft plump palms and it occurred to me for the first time why you never saw groups of hunters walking out into the jungle with nothing but clenched fists.
The creature was on me before I could even scour the ground for a potential weapon. It leapt clumsily up as I pushed away from it, there was a white flare of heat as the tips of it’s claws racked down the right side of my face. I made it to my feet but this vile beast made up for its lack of agility with great speed and it sunk its teeth deep into left forearm. A scream was forced from my lips when it started to twist its solid head to the side, trying to rip a chunk out of my arm. I had a fistful of the skin at the nape of its neck and was trying to twist the head back again, I knew it was futile, that its brutish strength was twice my own. I stared down into the one yellowed and blood shot eye that I could still make out, it bulged with undiluted hatred and rage. This burning hateful eye was the only bright spot in the black form attached to my arm, the eye became all I could see, it seemed to grow, pulsing and filling my vision. My hand slid from the neck and across the face, I gripped behind the skull with my fingers as my thumb plunged deep into the eye. My arm was free and the air was alive with the shrieking of the creature.
With the sudden release of my limb I found my back in the dirt and roots again, however with divine luck my hand also found a weapon. I rose to my feet again with a large club like stick brandished. The creature’s final attack brought it into the swift arching pathway of the stick, the sound of wood and bone colliding reverberated off the tree trunks for a brief eternity. Then I was on my foe and the stick split the air in repeated downward swinging journeys. A kind of madness came over me and I was temporally relieved of any thought as I stopped using the stick as a club and its pointed end became a spear, repeatedly finding its target with mounting frenzy. I stopped as the stick started lifting clods of soil into the air on its return journeys; I had dispatched evil from this world.
The stick fell to the ground, a wood pigeon called from behind me, a gentle breeze cooled the warm smatterings of blood on my hands, and where once there was a terrifying creature there was now nothing but an unrecognizable mound of gore. Something puzzled me though, there seemed to be clumps of fur amongst the creature remains. Rubbing the blood matted black fur between my fingers it seemed real enough but the animal had had leathery bat like skin in life. The only conclusion I could reach is that it had undergone some form of metamorphosis in death, its true form hidden in corpse state. Then I noticed something else, a streak of bright solid blue colour amongst the mottled crimsons, blacks and purples that spread across the woodland floor at my feet. The world decelerated, I dropped to my knees in slow motion fearing I already knew what I had found. A hooked finger tugged gently moved the strip of blue plastic through the remains of the creatures neck as easy as if sloughed from boiled tomatoes. A bronze disc hung from the collar looped round my bloodied finger, it read simple enough, but I gazed at it for an eternity: ‘Mr Biscuit’ and then a phone number engraved in Arial font.
How could it be? I did not want to understand but I did. The realization caused my stomach to lurch, and then contract into a vice like angry fist. My copious and violent regurgitation onto the animal’s remains served to disturbed an army of flies from their business for only the briefest of moments. Stomach emptied I wiped my mouth with a sleeve and faced the reality of the situation, the terrible reality that someone or something had domesticated this maleficent monster. I had not extinguished evil from our world but merely one of its agents. Some higher nefarious demon had bought this thing into corporeal existence and set it searching for you. As my brain swam trying to conjure up tangible imagery of this animals master I heard its voice rise up from the park and find me through the trees.
“Mr. Biscuit!” The shrill cry came again and again. “Mr. Biscuit!”
Every fibre in my body wanted to bolt like the baby rabbit had done earlier, find a hiding place and lie cowering but I had to see the face of that which had sent this beast into the world. I remained hidden amongst trees and low foliage and sort the source of the voice. A child! With all the sick and cunning imagination one would expect it had taken the form of a child, a boy of about twelve stalked the tree line calling Mr Biscuit home. Did I have to fight this child as well? I felt faint at the thought but I could not fight him now, no doubt he was twice as powerful as his animal servant and I was injured and exhausted from battle. I sank back into the woodland and let nature engulf me, let a fallen tree hide me until dusks cover brought courage back. The cries for Mr Biscuit lasted nearly two hours, alternating in proximity but steadily mounting in pitch and frenzy until I thought it would drive me insane.
The demon has gone but I am still in the woods. I have been here several days standing station at the clearing that over looks your house. I know my duty now is to watch over you and I am ready to fight again should the demon return or set one of his terrible beasts on your scent again. The breeze has dried the blood that covers me, its iron content rusting in the fresh air. The animal’s collar still hangs from my hand, I have thought about sending it to you just so you know I am watching over you, that you are looked after, that you have a guardian angel. But no, you asked me not to contact you and I will respect that. Besides if that monster in child form does not come back soon I will need the number on the collar; I will telephone and my voice will not waver as I deliver these words ‘I have slaughter your foul wisht hound and now it is your turn. I am waiting for you.’