It was the morning after Dwight’s first and last money shot in reality’s gagging throat. As far as she could see a murmuration of starlings, one of those beautiful super flocks that dance and dive in morning sky, lay strewn dead like the soldiers of the Somme. Beverly, that is not her real name, sat on the porch she had built with her own two hands and shook with the horror. Had she been someone else she might have wept, she might have laid down and given up until she could give down again. But not Beverly, she was not one for crying.
Every morning for as long as she had lived there she had pulled herself out of bed at dawn, poured herself a cup of coffee and watched them dance over the pastel sky. But not that morning. That morning she had pulled herself off the floor with an aching skull, no recollection of how she had got there, no idea at all. All she knew was that last night, like always and in the same order she had fed the dogs, fed the chickens, fed herself, she had sat on her porch and smoked tobacco out of a pipe, she had read the same book she had been reading for a life time. "Strawberry Moon" by Jim Konapinsky trying to rewrite the choices of the characters she loved so much, change the ends of the stories she knew too well. For some time she had stared out into the dulling darkness and remembered a life before this one. She had headed in for the night, kissed her doggies goodnight and then... then she was awake, on the floor, her face being licked by her pooches. The muddy morning light creeping from black to blue, through red and gold. What the fuck had happened? Was she ill, a brain tumour? A stroke? She was not one for fear but she felt it then, wrapping its cold grip around her stomach and squeezing. She stood up, then threw up, then staggered back gasping for breath. A mad panic of possibilities raging through her. Hospitals, tests, drips and feeding tubes. No more sunsets, no more sun ups. No more starlings dancing in the morning sky. Who would look after her dogs, who would look after her, she couldn't leave this place, this was all she had ever wanted, her dream for a life different from her last one. She stumbled and grasped at her comfy chair, sitting into it and holding her heart.
If only you could have helped her; could have just leaned into the page and eased some of that panic. Told her that she had been roofied by a rogue ejaculate being fired into the engine of everything. But you couldn't and you still can’t, tough shit, you have to leave her be, that's how this works. Maybe you don't want to, maybe you want to see her suffer. That's your prerogative you sick fucker. Poor Bev thought she had brain cancer and you're getting a thrill out of watching her freak out, I pity your parents when they get old.
She was still struggling to breathe, her dogs circling her, living her panic, jumping up, licking at her, whining and barking. The alpha was going omega and they didn't know what do. Beverly broke for the front door the pack hot on her heals, each gasp strained and panted. The terror gripped. Bursting out into the fresh morning air and straight into a horror show, bird holocaust. This field this prairie plain had transformed, the grass and dirt were littered with up turned, half buried, bird. A crop freshly sewn of feather and bone. Crashing through her front door Beverly crash test dummied straight into the wall of that landscape and with one giant gasp she was slapped back into the waking, shaking, heart-breaking world. For hours she sat on that porch her panic turning to pain her pain turning to hate. As the morning rolled on, her dogs, her fine, loyal hounds started to scavenge one by one heading out into that bleak battle field and bringing back those poor lost starlings for their trophy cabinets. Pleased as punch they scrapped and fought, played and danced the way only dogs do over dead meat. All the while Beverly no matter what her name is, stared across that killing field and plotted her revenge.
She sat on her porch, her mind in the past, her eyes endlessly scanning the birds for a sign of life. She got up and started to move amongst them, her dogs sniffing and mouthing their carcasses.
"Leave them Girls, leave them where they lie," The dogs and her had learned to speak the same language, enough time and a pack don't really need words at all, they all know their place and function, they all know when good is good and bad is bad but every now and then a word or two wouldn't go a miss. The dogs understood, filing into formation and following on. She walked back and forth, up and down like a plough searching for just one. Just one would be enough for her to make sense of this house of horrors she had come round to this morning. She wondered if her dogs had passed out too, but there was no way to know, dogs have one way of dealing with most things and that is to lick and bark and wag there tails.
About halfway up the field she stopped, she could make out something in a ditch about 50 feet ahead. From where she was she couldn't see exactly what, but it was different from the rest of the field. It looked as if giant sods of dirt and grass were turned up on themselves into some sort of mound. She whistled to her dogs and picked her speed, those 60 something year old legs of hers still able to carry a pretty pace. She was right on top of it before she really understood what it was. They weren't sods of grass and dirt at all they were they half eaten birds turned inside out, lone wings, legs, beaks and bones, piled up like a totem. All around the pyre those poor morning starlings’ blood had dyed the grass to rust. The dogs on cue began to lick at the grass like an eaten bowl of ice cream, nosing and lapping, burying their muzzles deep into the grass; a fine treat for fine beasts. Beverly hissed and they reluctantly backed away. She would probably let them eat their fill, there is no sense in defying nature, she just wanted to figure out what had done this first. Maybe it had done it all.
The day after Dwight’s cum shot, Beverly collected her things, some savoury food for her and her dogs, a lighting flint, her hunting knife, as many boxes of bullets as she thought she could carry. She took her camping mat and blanket and a small cooking pot, plate and cup and a bottle of kerosine to help start fires. It is all well and good being able to start a fire by rubbing a frog and a crows dick together, but it is not necessary, so why bother when you don't have to. She neatly rolled her things and placed them into her pack, then she changed into her hunting fatigues. Out on the porch Beverly took her knife and, like every time she left this place she carved her name, whatever it is, followed by the date, whenever it was, into the railing she had nailed there herself. Looking over at the 1000's of names and dates scarred into he wooden skin of her home, she picked up her rifle and whistling her pack of old faithful's headed out on the hunt.
She headed back up the field back to the death heap, the starting line for whatever would happen next. Sure enough just as she'd left it, as if it would have magically changed, just behind the pile of bones and feathers were two giant clawed hoof prints like nothing she had ever seen. Like if a horse had hands and those hands belonged to a tiger with hands that looked like hoofy claw hands. Whatever they were they were the size of a shire horse’s hooves and they cut deep furrows into the dirt. Behind the claw marks were more claw marks, behind those the prairie grass and wild flowers were pressed flat where the feasting beast had lain and rested, rolled on its back, loved up and drunk on dead meat.
There was a clear path that led away from the bone pile up and over and into the tree line at the far end of the field. Beyond that there was the forest which ran deep, up mountains and through glacial valleys. It was an old forest, from before men with their machines. Before human-beings arranged everything into neat little areas that knew their place. Before the world was a patch work of purpose. This forest had stayed mainly untouched. Some farm land like Beverly’s had carved its way into its boundaries a small amount but for the most part it was still a great wild expanse where people went to get back to where they once belonged. This is why Beverly had come here so long ago. To get as far away from that strange thing that city people call real life and closer to what all people once were. Beverly and her hounds set off, the trail was clear for the most part, the grass, flattened and deep clumps of dirt strewn in a sort of clear pathway.
Where the field met the forest the fence Beverly had hammered in that spring had been upended and dragged into the forest a little as if whatever beast Beverly was following had become tangled up in the barbed wire, and such was the strength of it, it had simply kept on moving taking 5 or 6 posts with it. A few steps into the woods at the furthest point of what was left of the fence, wrapped around the wire was a fist full of thick pink hair. The scent of it sent the dogs into a fever, whooping, and leaping around it. Jumping up at our Beverly. Growling at each other all heckles and teeth. Beverly, called out their names, but nothing. She shouted at them and they ignored her, circling each other in a craze. This could not happen, it was not possible, these good old girls were raised together, ate together, slept together, this was not them, this was the fur,"Ladies, don't you da..." but as the words fell out of her mouth the dogs jumped at each other clawing and biting, one latching onto another, sinking their teeth a deep as they could go. Beverly grabbed two by their collars and threw them apart falling backwards with the effort, but it was no use they were too strong for her too rabid to stop alone, she had to destroy the fur. Beverly reached in her pack searching furiously for her bottle of kerosine. Screaming at the dogs to stop, but her cries were just a soundtrack to their fist fight. The dogs were back out of their scramble, bloodied and limping, teeth still snarling, blood frothing at their mouths. She pulled the Kerosine out of her bag as Carla, the alpha of the gang, leapt through the air pinning Drainpipe, the smallest. Beverly ripped the cap of the Kerosine and poured it over the hair. Drainpipe cried. Carla sunk her teeth into her side. Beverly, tears streaming from her eyes as her family tried to murder each other right in front of her eyes, struck her knife against her flint and sparks erupted forward igniting the fur into a gigantic ball of flames which knocked Beverly back with its blast. As quickly as it exploded it was gone evaporated with most of the barbed wire surrounding it melted and drooping. Beverly’s hands stung, her face burned, she could feel the small balls of frazzled hair where her eyebrows once were. But she couldn't think about that right now. Beverly, whatever her real name is, scrambled to her feet, squinting and blinking through her watering eyes, sent there by some bold brain function with no grasp on what was actually required for this situation. she smeared the tears along her cheeks with her stinging hands and scanned the ground for her pups. there they were in a huddle, nuzzling each other, licking and tending to each others wounds. Best friends after a drunken fight sitting on a curb arm in arm drinking in the new day. “Jesus ladies, you scared the shit out of me,” said Beverly climbing into the huddle, embracing her beautiful family with the love of a mother. The dogs licked her face, bloodying it up, pushing their heads into hers. there breath heavy as heavy as a purr. As casually as a mother of 3 changing a nappy, Beverly examined her girls, one by one, lifting their legs ,checking their teeth. Searching out the bites. All three were hurt, all three were too beat to come any further, but all three were alive and that was enough for Beverly. The fact that they wouldn’t be coming with her was probably a good thing, she thought. Having seen the hell that a handful of hair could raise, imagine an entire lions worth. They wouldn't stand a chance.
By the time Beverly had taken the girls home, washed out and bandaged their wounds, laid out enough food and water for them for a few days it was getting dark. Beverly had lost a lot of ground on the creature, maybe too much. But if she waited till morning she would have no chance, “no time like the present,” she said looking at the door. She kissed her dogs goodbye, leaving the door a jar so they could go out to piss or shit, or heaven forbid she never came back they wouldn't starve in there. “I’ll be back in a few days”, she said,”No more mauling each other over fuck all. I mean it idiots, you are all I have”.
Out in the field the moon shone full in the sky, lighting the world like a street lamp. She was at the tree line a few minutes later, past the fence the next and then into the pitch of the forest’s dark. She had done this before, hunting at night. Although more difficult, it was an art she had learned over years and years, and one that could, if done right be far more fruitful than day hunting. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, the moon’s white light began to inch its way through the canopy of the furs and onto the forest floor in pools. Shining islands in a black sea. For Bev, it was important not to step into them, but skirt them, use them as beacons, use them as traps. Darkness is so much darker when it is seen from the light, as light is from the dark. Any creature caught in in the spotlight would be a blinded target, ripe for the picking. She trailed the in-between, a ship navigating its way through icebergs. Staying invisible, out of sight, out of mind. The pink thing didn't even know that Beverly was looking for it, didn't even know there was a Beverly at all. That was Beverly’s one advantage and she had to keep it that way if she had any chance at all.
The night was long and fruitless, an endless tramp deeper and deeper into the bush, Beverly followed what signs she could, broken branches, disturbed ground, but in the dark everything was hard to make out and without her dogs to keep her on the straight and narrow, she quickly lost any semblance of a trail that she had come close to. Just before 4 am Beverly gave up searching and stole an hour of sleep under a fallen tree. She ate some biscuits, dried fruit, and a few bricks of chocolate. At 5 as the light began to change back to morning, Beverly set out again. Hoping to pick up something sooner or later. Later was the answer, much later, the morning turned into the afternoon and the afternoon to evening and Beverly had found nothing. Same again the next day and by the evening, tired and weary, Beverly ate beans and bread rolled out her camping mat and called it a day. She would give it one more try tomorrow and if she found nothing she would give up, go home and get back to whatever it was she was doing before this whole stupid thing started.
The trees stood like colossus’, each trunk as thick as a boat. Light streamed from high above fragmenting through the furs thin needles into a mist. Beverly had been moving for about an hour or so, hopelessly following the trail of a deer, as if tracking anything was the same as tracking something, panic buying on Christmas Eve. The tracks of one deer became 2 and she followed them and before long 3, then 4 and so on. A herd, a swarm, a hoard. The tracks began a small drip, became a river became a flood raging through the forest floor. Beverly began to run, following the tracks current. They were not just deer tracks now, they were bear and elk, wolves and squirrel, every little critter from mouse to rabbit, a regular Noah's Arc of weird all caught in a tractor beam to god knows what. Beverly had an idea of course, as do you, whatever that pink fucker was these little furry idiots were punch drunk on its stench, just like her hounds had been, just like those poor starlings had been. Beverly stopped to catch her breath, leaning against a tree and supping deep gulps from her canteen. Through the gaps in the forest canopy, the sky began to flicker like a strobe light, thousands of birds filled the heavens all streaming in long lined formations towards what we know must be that pink bastard. Beverly checked her rifle, checked her knife, she checked her breath.
She began to catch up with smaller creatures, dancing through the spaces between them so not to hurt or crush them. The further she went the more critters. Doubling, tripling in numbers. More and more until the entire forest floor undulated like an ocean. Beverly raised her rifle to her eye still running at pace. Through the trees, in the distance a pink glow radiated, the black silhouettes of trees, bear and moose surrounding it. She slowed, squinting through the glow to make out whatever it might be. She put her eye to her rifles' sight and hunched down behind tree. In the centre of a clearing about 100 feet ahead was a mountain of dead animals, stacked one on top of another, half consumed, ripped in pieces. Above birds dived kamikaze into its peak breaking their necks or knocking themselves out on impact. All around bears fought deer, wolves fought hoards of rats or squirrel. Blood sprayed the air like mist as the cacophony of this killing frenzy wailed like an air raid siren. She started as her eyes were drawn to something. Behind the pile it loomed, huge and pink, its massive form moving back and forth in and out of view, just enough for her to see it but not enough to be able to see what it was.
Beverly couldn't breath, just as she couldn't the morning after the glory hole. Her eyes filled and streaming with tears she turned and hid behind the tree, clutching her chest. This blind panic, those poor dying animals. Her whole life alone, out here with no one but this forest and all that lived within it. 3 days of no sleep, of little food, that death march of all those critters, all that, and some giant pink monster jones-towning the cast of a Disney movie right behind her. She had to do something. She knew that, as her mind swam and spun and her breath choked she knew that much. She could see that clear as day, she had to do something. Killing whatever it was would not be enough, her dogs had raged without the beast anywhere near. She would have get that pink freak and burn it.
She closed her eyes and concentrated on her breath, slow, slow, deep and slow. She felt her heart beat, she felt it race she felt it run frantic oscillating tempo. Slow, slow deep and slow. Her breaths filled her lungs and that jumping heart of hers began to pump in time with her breathing. She turned the tree, keeping low, she sprinted to the next pinning her back to it so not to be seen. Again and again, sprint and hide, sprint and hide until she was right on the edge of the massacre. A bear bound straight passed her trampling the sea of warring rodents and into the fray, slashing a stag down with its giant paw. The stag, dragged to its feet, turning to the giant brown bastard and charged, the bear reared to its hind legs to attack as the stag pierced its chest with its antlers. The bear took a step backwards, yelling a dying yell, and lifted the stag from the ground, it's antlers still stuck deep in the bears chest. The bear began to claw at the stags neck tearing its flesh, howling and moaning in pain, the stag writhed in the air crying in unison. The stag and bear began to turn and tumble in their final death throws. The bear spun the stag, smashing in it into the tree where Beverly hid. Beverly leapt backwards stumbling to the ground as the bear/stag fell to the earth dead. For a second Beverly lay on the ground looking up at the sky full of diving birds for a second she was lost in all this horror and as she scrambled to her feet the gigantic frame of the pink monstrosity stepped out from behind the pile. 20 feet of fur and muscle, of teeth and tusk. Beverly froze, stuck still by the sight. The creature began to scuttle across the clearing around the stack and straight towards Beverly. Just feet away now, Beverly still frozen, staring at her own death. It raised one its claws and with a single movement struck out, sweeping the stag, bear and a fuck-tonne of rodents into the burial mound. It hadn't seen her, or maybe it didn't care. Maybe this was its purpose, a spider building its web, a bird building its nest, a human building an instagram following. This creature, what ever it was, built buildings out of bodies until there were no more bricks. It didn't care about life or the living it lived to build corpse mountains. The morbid fucker. Beverly didn't matter to it. And in that moment she knew what she had to do. Just as you do too.
The summer heat had parched the earth and wrung the dead leaves and needles dry. It was not uncommon for seasonal forest fires around there. Beverly poured some of her Kerosine on the ground striking her flint and starting a small smouldering fire. She ran about 10 feet at another point around the clearing and started another, another then another until all around the clearing had begun to burst into flames, spreading outwards and back. Beverly ran about 100 paces then turned unshouldering her rifle and steadying herself against a fallen tree. She put the sight up to her eyes, breathing slowly, in and out in and out. She fired her bullet flew through the air striking the thing in its one of its legs. It howled and started to pace around in the smoke filled clearing. Beverly aimed again, only just making out the massive frame of the beasts through the smog. She fired and hit another leg. It creature howled again and stumbled to the ground. These were only winging shots but they would be enough, Beverly turned and ran, the flames rising to a fire rising to an inferno. Animals were still running for the clearing, BBQ in the making. Beverly couldn't think about that, she just ran, the fire, the howls of the dying animals swimming through the trees. She looked over her shoulder but it was only fire, a wall of flames as high as the forest itself. Beverly didn't look back again, she just ran, ran for as long as she could run, for as long as her old legs could carry her. Back to the home she had built herself to those dogs she loved the most, back to the beginning.
Beverly rose this morning and patted her dogs on their heads, pushing her head into their necks and telling them she was happy to see them. She made herself coffee just like always and went out to sit on the porch she built herself. She sat there on the edge of her field and watched a murmuration of Starling dancing and diving in the sky over the smouldering skeleton of that forest she had lived for, fought for and killed. Maybe she should have just left that pink cunt alone.