Jack and Jill and the Hill

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
I succumbed. So many vampires and werewolves and supernatural beasties--Oh My! Having been so barraged from all sides for the last several years, I decided to appease the Popular Horror Gods and write something for them.

Submitted: December 16, 2010

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Submitted: December 16, 2010

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Nothing like the smell of rain. You sniff it on the breeze, and you know something's coming your way. Could be nothing. Could be a gale that'll blow you off your feet.

A shrill beep jumps up out of my jacket pocket. Recorder's low on batteries. I snap a new one in and turn it back on to do its job. Two decades of service does not exempt it from pulling its weight on a hunt.

"It's getting to be twilight. Went through a patch of grass a while back, and it smelled like rain. Got a stiff wind coming in from the north. Jack's gone up towards the hills, and it's a good route. He's been where he's going."

This forest feels stone cold. I saw a rabbit scampering into a threadbare bush when I parked my jeep, and two Vs flew overhead before I stepped under the first eaves, but I haven't seen anything since. Not a peep from the brush, not a lonely crow flirting with the treetops.

The forest drifts upwards, and the birch fades into ever thickening stretches of pine. I can hear dry needles crunching under my boots. It's a special sound. Everywhere's different when it comes to sound. A winter crisp, a mountain's whistle, a meadow's silence. I wonder if Jack noticed when he came romping along this way, or if he just crushed it like any other piece of turf. I wonder if he still has the sensitivity to notice the little things, or differentiates sights by smells and just wonders what they taste like.

"It just came to me: even after all these years, no one knows exactly how intelligent they are. They contradict themselves regularly. Case in point for Jack. The Mayor's outer door was shattered in typical form. He used the handle to enter the bedroom. Severe contradiction of method. Case requires further study."

A breath of air whistles over the hilltop and rushes past me. Something rank has hitched a ride. The smell's stronger at the crest, and there's tracks to boot. He went running fast, Jack did. Not like a shifter to give such a good trail.

I slip Smithson off my shoulder lock him under my arm. The trail shifts down the northward slope, dashes straight and disappears around a great old tree that juts out like a rampart from the hillside. I break off the trail and sprint up behind the tree. A dell appears beneath my feat, sheltered from plain view by the overhanging hill and tree. It's a bloody mess. Flesh, intestines and scraps of other organs lie piled in between dull white bones. I jump down into the dell and squat beside the carnage.

"Found human remains a mile in. Origin unknown, possibly from the village. Tooth marks on the bones consistent with those found in the village." Something glimmers in the blood. "Watch. Swiss Army. Cracked, with time stopped at 9:37, the 23rd."

I stand, and peer down the slope. "Jack's gone north, with at least a day's head-start."

It's very odd. 27 years I've been on the job, and I've never once seen this. Typically, they attack, they run their sorry asses off so they can't be tailed. Never have I seen one stop for a bite on the lam. Kill them with a sideswipe-maybe. Stop and take a good long bite-never.

"Unusual behavior. Stopped for a nip along the way. Jack doesn't seem very worried."

I kick off the edge and slide down the embankment. Jack's left such a trail I can see it on the go. Looks like we think alike when it comes to getting down hills. It picks up at the bottom with a vengeance, dashing like hellfire northward. I hang Smithson back over my shoulder.

"Extremely unusual behavior. Conflicting. Trail was faint to start, now it's like a highway." A sudden spot of white appears above the treetops. Can't believe I didn't see the moon coming on. God knows how long it's been floating there without me noticing. "Damn nighttime snuck up on me. Goddamn. I swear, that's never happened."

I don't think anyone looks at the moon like I do. Some walk home from the theatre staring up at it and shivering at shadows. Some people like it hot with a bit of Spanish guitar. But the moon's different for me.

"Know what the moon means, Jackie boy?" I wish he could hear me, but God knows he's miles and miles up in those hills. "Moon means I'm on the job! I don't fuck you 'til I see the moon!"

And a howl rises up out of the silence. And I can't believe it happened.

"New-never-Jack howled at me. I've never seen this sort of behavior in a shifter. Shifters on the lam go and run and run and run and dive like rats into their holes until they're sure they're safe or until they get hungry. This is fucking weird."

27 years I've been doing this. I've killed 374 shifties. Got myself a reputation for being a hardass, and a gal who gets the job done. And by God do I get it done. People know to call me when they've got a supernatural beastie on their hands. Place gets attacked by a shifter run out of proper prey? I come down, give them a pretty name and kill them. I've fucked them from the boonies like this to the Jade Buddha to old classics like Romania. They've got instinct. I've got Smithson and a ken of how they think. Never been outclassed by a shifter.

"Jack hasn't rabbited. He's in voice range, somewhere inside a mile, and definitely north."

Smithson finds his old home couched against my right shoulder. Old King Colt's loose in his holster. I can have him out in mayfly second if I need. Not that it'll be much good. Maybe make a pretty round welt in Jack's hide.

Pine needles are thick as a wheat field on the long, upwards slope. Jack's tracks are deep. He scrambled up this hill like his tail was on fire, digging in and leaping up and up and up. Moon keeps rising overhead, but it's not helping the shadows. Smithson's light picks up the slack.

A wet rush of wind sweeps down the hill. The moon goes out and the sky starts falling.

"Little past dark, raining. Hill's leveling off. Get to the stop, catch my breath. Jack'll be a cinch in the mud."

I sprint the last bit of the hill and break out into open air. A wide valley opens up in front of me, full to the brim with trees, sitting like me under the rain. It's sneaking under my coat. Jack really started sneaking too. Looks like he went hellfire up the hill and suddenly went all commando. Started circling. He went round and round, splashing up mud everywhere.

"Holy fuck."

So sneaky I nearly missed it. Jack broke off to the left, and far, far to the right-someone broke off and circled. They lope off quietly away and back down the hill.

"You're fucking kidding me. Not possible." And suddenly it makes sense. Jack's behavior's ridiculous for a single shifter. But for two? For a pack? Animals always work different in packs-but it isn't possible.

I kneel beside the tracks, check them again. They're not the same, not by a long shot. Toe length, spacing, heel indentation. There's two and it makes no sense. 27 years and I've never seen more than one at one place at one time.

"Twenty seven years-I fucking know you! Shifters are loners, shifters don't run in packs!"

And now there's one behind me, cutting me off from any escape. And the rain's in my coat, all down my neck. It's bloody cold.

Pine needles crack. Someone stepped in a dip. I whip around, aiming Smithson into the trees. An eight foot silhouette squats in the beam, poised just in the tree-line. It morphs into a blur of muddy fur and massive points of white. Smithson blasts into my shoulder. The shifter's face bursts open, bleeding like a fondue fountain. It collapses onto its elbows, digs its claws into the mud.

I stand slowly out of my crouch, scanning left and right with Smithson's beam. Forest's quiet, no popping needles or snapping twigs. I shine it back on the corpse.

"Shifter charged me-fucking charged me! Sneaked up quiet like a roach."

A howl drifts up out of the woods. It came from the west, further up the hill. Another starts down the way I came. Another two from the northward valley. A final wail joins from the east.

"Surrounded. Can't-full moon and surrounded. Never been like this. God it's cold."

I can't deny it, can't ignore it. Haven't been scared in a while. Got a fright every now and again, maybe. But I know the business. Knew it from the first kill I made in Mexico,in those gray hills outside Guadalajara. Went out there with a Kalashnikov and a cornerstone Magnum. Nearly got my head chewed off, but I got my kill. There was more lead in the shifter's head than brain. Been a long ways since than. Found my feet in the business. Never backed down, never looked back. I don't look back. One look over the shoulder's all it takes. You look, you glance, and there's a piece of your neck missing. Why I'm the best.

Hot blood ripples through my fingers, warm and warlike. I can feel my heart beating against my ribcage to get out.

"Never been outclassed by a shifter. Retreat, regroup, return with a forest fire."

I jump the dead shifter and start south. The trees close around me. The pine needles break and shatter under my feet, loud as explosions. Other explosions start on the right and left. I can just see flashes in Smithson's light. Massive silhouettes slink in and out of the trees, weaving closer. Bastards aren't close enough to shoot, but close enough to snarl. Can hear them snuffing over the rain.

The world spins and explodes into mud. Needles stab my face, and neck-the world's spinning like a washing machine. It stops. Can't feel my right foot. Head feels like a softball been knocked out of the park. Damn tree stopped me hard.

Can't hear anything but the rain.

"Hit a bump. Falling head over heels for this place. Ankle's coming to, think I broke it. Bloody-hell! Yeah-yeah-broke it, broke it. Fucking broke it! Stupid, stupid!"

A howl breaks out above me, somewhere up the hill. Jack's there, preening, sharpening his teeth. Still can't believe he got the upper hand on me. Everything in the village looked so normal. Six victims, all in the same house, one eaten, one! Not two, or three or six but one! Shifter went into town, picked the biggest house, went inside and killed everyone. Ate one. Couldn't have known. Should've known.

"Howl on, Jackie boy."

I wonder if the recorder can pick it up when I whisper. I draw it out and wind it back.

"-howl breaks out above me, somewhere up the hill. Jack's there, preening, sharpening his teeth. Still can't believe-"

"Talking to myself now? Got to be kidding me. Jokers!"

I wind it back another space.

"-explosions start on the right and left. I can just see flashes in Smithson's light. Eight foot silhouet-"

"Kidding me."

"-ick off the edge and slide down the embankment. Jack's left such a trail I can see it on the go. Looks like we think alike when it comes to getting-"

Don't know what the hell's going on. Body's screaming too loud to think. Rain's too cold, and my recorder's telling menonsense. God knows what's going on. Damn ankle, damn shifters, damn rain!

"Goddamn ammo."

Shifters go easy, if you know how. Nonsense and balderdash to silver. Replace enough of their brains with lead and you're good to go. Takes a full clip, though. I check the top pockets, middle and low. Six clips.

"Got a knife-blade margin. Two misses and it's over. Can't even see them. Quiet as hell. They're there, behind their god damned trees and they're waiting! Waiting for what? Don't know."

I stand, levering myself straight with Smithson. Ankle's like death. I angle myself against the slope, shift myself downward over the needles. They're slippery enough.

A shadow bursts out of deeper ones, dashing across the hill with mud and needles spraying out behind. I wrench Smithson off the ground and turn him to the shifter. My balance totters, my ankle collapses. Smithson slams into my shoulder and my cheek's in the mud. Shifter disappears into the shadows.

He's circling, circling-he's going to charge again. I scramble for the clip in my pocket, slip it into Smithson's belly. Forest's blasting out noise. Needles, twigs, growls and snarls, all breaking and coming from everywhere. Shadows dashing, tearing through the woods towards me again.

Smithson spits out his stomach. The shifter howls and collapses off his hind legs. Smithson clicks dry as its shaggy hide crawls into the dark. I inject him with another clip. He never stays full for long, cause I've always got a need to squeeze him dry. Good old fellow's been spitting for me eight years. Few more times, and he'll retire one way or the other.

But that's such a dirty word: retire. Sandy said it, told me I was getting old, bit too old to go marauding after dark. Told me gray hair was nothing to be ashamed of. He was right too. Got a paw to the face next hunt-nothing that would've stopped me ten years ago. Couldn't move for half an hour.

"Not going to happen this time!" The woods don't answer. "I know how you eat! Not going to happen!"

I rise straight with Smithson. The hill's steep and wet and deep. Can't get Sandy out of my head. Damn shifter pinned him,started slow. Sucked his arm in and chewed it off, dipped its snout in his stomach and chewed-bit off his face sometime later. Couldn't stop that.

"I can stop this. I can stop this."

It's still so quiet. Rain shattering on the pines. Me dragging myself down the hill. Sandy crying like a baby. Explosions left and right, juggernauts plowing through the brush. I heave Smithson towards the right and grind the trigger into the steel. Blood fountains from his chest.

I slam my back to a tree, drag Smithson towards the second one. He jams in its face, shreds it into mulch. It staggers onto me and rips into my chest. Clip's dry. I shove King Colt down its throat. Shoot, cycle, shoot and over and over until it's dry and he's dead.

"Quiet again. Can't-can't feel my chest. Can see it, it ripped up my chest and I can't feel it. All numb, and it's gonna kick. Gonna move and it's all gonna kick!"

I move off from the tree, and my chest opens up and screams. Feels like fire, like my blood's gasoline and someone lit a match. There's a ten foot tower of flame coming out of my chest and I can't see it.

"Think you've won, Jackie boy? Jackie? We've got a date! Gonna fuck you, shifty! Strap it on and bend you over! Can you take it, eh? Eh? I'm Canadian, God damn it!"

More howls. Two ahead of me, two behind me. The hill's leveling off. Needles are deeper, harder to run over. They don't think so. They're converging in front, catching up behind. I can see their shaggy hides everywhere, and their teeth so white in the darkness.

I drop down and one hurtles over me. I jam the trigger and scream murder and twist myself around and around. Blood and fur and shrieks and bullets fly and suddenly stop.

Again it's quiet.

I can't feel my left shoulder. For the life of me, I can't move my shoulder. Wouldn't know I had one without me seeing it all bloody and bony. Gonna feel it in a moment.

A silver light suddenly awakens just ahead of me. It pours over a small glade, alone and empty under the looming pines. Again, Smithson helps me stand.

"Good fellow. Never let me down."

I stagger into the clearing, fumble into my pockets. Not a single clip left.

"Good fellow."

They lurk around the edges, just out of sight. Don't think itmatters anymore. Don't think it would matter one way or the other. Lord knows I tried. Tried for me, tried for Sandy. I'd rather his sacrifice didn't go to waste.

I slip the recorder out of my pocket. "Hello, anyone. If you're hearing this, you give this to Becky Casey. Give her a kiss, say Jill Casey said hi. She's too damn old to call me mum-tell her that too!

"And-Jackie Boy? Don't know if you'll hear this, Jackie. You seem pretty damn smart. If you hear this, you picked it out of the pile of blood and bones that-that's me. Is it all I am to you? Meat in a sack? You my karma, Jackie? I've killed so many of you. Shot you, shattered you, stabbed you and ripped open your heads by the dozens. But if you're my karma, you're damn slow. Could have finished me a dozen times tonight and never did. Amature mistake, wolfie! That smile you're wearing? I carved it into your throat!"

I lay Smithson down on the grass. Bowie feels bloody and proud in my fingers. Shadows slip out into the moonlight. Eight feet tall, all fur, teeth and red eyes. Six inch claws.

I've fought them edge to edge, and I've seen those eyes before-brimming with hunger and fury. Never backed down. Never got outclassed by a shifter.

Bestial howls claw through wind and rain and trees to themoon. Its silvery light falls like honey from the sky, dripping down over my hair and face.

I suppose it had to end like this.


© Copyright 2019 frankiedarling. All rights reserved.

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