The wind blew violently, whistling loudly through the trees like a howling beast and making the branches sway back and forth at a jerking, uneven pace.
The snow fell heavily, being blown around by the powerful gusts of wind, making it impossible to see outside through the blizzard.
Everything was a blur from where I stood near the front doors inside of the building. The only thing that I could see was the dim, flickering light coming from the single lamp post by the end of the parking lot.
I held my cellphone to one ear, the other covered by my hand as I tried to block out the harsh sounds coming from outside.
“Listen, Cas, I don’t think I can drive in this weather,” I explained to my roommate through the device.
“Yeah, It’d be safer if you didn’t.” She replied, her voice cutting slightly out.
“It’s getting late,” I sighed, looking at the big clock hung on the far wall that marked 11:36.
“Safety comes first, Amanda!” Scolded Cassey in a serious tone “Do not go outside. It’s brutal!”
I chuckled, tucking a loose strand of blond hair behind my ear. “I know,” I replied, turning back to the window.
“Just stay put,” Instructed my roommate, though her voice was barely audible “and wait out the storm.”
I nodded. “Alright-”
But the other line had gone silent and I realised, to my dismay, that my battery had just died. Great.
I put the phone back into my pocket and let out a sigh. I was the only one left in the store and was surrounded by nothing more than shelves upon shelves of food.
It felt strange being alone in the building. Usually, I never stayed at work this late, but Mr. McKent, my boss, was away for the weekend and I was therefore asked to lock up for the night.
“Hello!” I called out loudly and chuckled, amused as the distant echo bounced off the metal walls.
I turned back to look outside at the blurry but vacant parking lot where the dim light in the distance continued to flicker rapidly.
Then, without any warning, the lamp ceased to shine and the lights in the store all shut down in a sudden and unexpected unison. The power had gone out.
I swore under my breath, slightly afraid and unsure of what to do in such a situation. Then, I remembered the generator. Mr. McKent had shown me how to use it awhile back, but I hadn't paid much attention. I mentally cursed myself for having ignored the valuable lesson, but decided to search for the generator nonetheless, hoping that I could somehow figure it all out if I could only find the machine.
So, I carefully made my way to the front office and fished through a drawer in the desk before finally grasping the small flashlight that was kept there at all times. It’s brightness was slightly comforting and I began to cautiously make my way towards the back room where I knew that the generator was kept.
As I walked, I began to grow scared. In the dark, the large and towering shelves did not seem so familiar anymore and my imagination was driving me mad. At every creak or squeak, I would jump and turn, pointing the flashlight in every possible direction to reassure myself that I was indeed safe. At that moment, I wished that I was at home in the comfort of my bed, maybe with a sweet hot-chocolate and a good book. I smiled faintly at the thought, but was quickly pulled back into the unfortunate reality of my situation and continued my venture towards the back room.
When I finally reached the large door marked employees only, I slowly turned the handle and entered the familiar space.
I was now surrounded by complete darkness, the dimness of the night sky and the brightness of the moon unable to illuminate the obscurity of the back room.
I took a deep breath and made my way to the shelves against the far wall where I thought that the generator would be found. However, upon arriving, it was nowhere in sight!
So, I continued my desperate search, scouring every inch and every corner of the room. It was not a big space, and I thought it foolish that I was incapable of locating a simple machine. It only frustrated me more in an already difficult situation.
Then, the beam of illumination coming from my flashlight landed upon a curious door. It was not particularly impressive and was coloured dark red, though the paint was chipping in many areas. There were no signs nor instructions anywhere near the door and I began to scour my memories, wondering if I had ever been inside of that room. Most likely not. I remembered a distant conversation where Mikey who worked in produce had inquired about this strange door. It was always locked. Mr. McKent had said that it was not of importance; just an electrical room. I suppose we never really minded it after that. Could the generator be in there? Perhaps. Mr. McKent had said that it was an electrical room after all.
So, I carefully tried the handle and pushed the heavy door open without much of a struggle, jumping in surprise when the sturdy door slammed powerfully behind me with a loud Clang!
For a moment, I thought that I heard a faint and distant grumbling, but shrugged it off, convincing myself that it was either my imagination or some type of machinery.
The first things that I noticed upon entering the space were the overwhelmingly bitter smell that immediately hit my nose and the unnaturally cold temperature that had seemed to drop so suddenly.
I rubbed my arms instinctively, trying to regain some warmth, and let out a breath, noticing how the air formed into a small, misty cloud in the cold.
Carefully, I directed the beam from my flashlight towards the wall so as to take in my surroundings, but immediately regretted doing so after what I saw.
Thick and lengthy metal chains decorated the high, stony walls like vines in a jungle, and a large table seemingly covered in carcasses--animal carcasses--and blood was placed near the centre of the room.
I wanted to scream, but quickly placed a hand over my mouth and turned rapidly to make an escape. However, I soon realized that the inside of the door did not have a handle. There was no way out. I was locked in!
I began to panic, hearing my heart beat rapidly from inside my chest and my breathing become uneven. The strong smell was taking over my senses, giving me an uneasy and nauseous feeling as my head grew increasingly dizzy. I felt as if I would pass out at any minute, but I wanted to stay strong. I had to get out.
I decided that my only other option was to search the room for another exit.
The area was quite spacious, and I made an effort to keep the light aimed at the ground so that the chains and bones would remain hidden in the mysterious obscurity.
The eerie silence did not help my nerves, and my senses heightened so that my heart leapt at the slightest of sounds. However, the air was so still, that I could hear nothing more than my own footsteps, my rapid heartbeat, and my heavy breathing.
I was beginning to lose hope and suddenly let my mind wander back to the comforting fantasy from earlier where I was safe and sound in my own bed, most likely in a peaceful and comfortable slumber by this time.
Then, as if God had somehow heard my prayers and taken pity, I spotted a door at the far end of the wall and my heart leapt with relief as I made my way towards the escape at a fast pace.
However, I stopped suddenly in my steps when a low grumble emerged from behind me and I spun around immediately.
The beam from my flashlight landed directly upon a small and feeble looking figure, crumpled up on the floor.
The man slowly turned towards me, and though his eyes were visibly bloodshot and his beard had grown out significantly, I soon recognized Mr. McKent.
We both seemed equally as shocked as the other, and a sudden sense of reassurance washed over me at the familiar face.
“What are you doing here, Mr. McKent?” I asked curiously, approaching him “Are you okay?”
He only recoiled like a scared animal and I suddenly noticed that his arms and legs were all chained up.
“Has somebody captured you?” I wondered, confused and clueless.
I heard a low, animalistic-growl emerge from his direction, but could not imagine where it could have come from, my only concern being his seemingly unstable state and the frightening room in which we were both trapped.
“Run.” I heard him whisper. His voice was shaky and he soon began to tremble violently.
“What?” I inquired, growing increasingly more concerned.
“Run!” He suddenly yelled at the top of his lungs as he began to squirm inhumanely on the rugged floor. He was twisting and turning in different ways, his body twitching uncontrollably and loud, dreadful cracking sounds emerging from different muscles as his bones split and bent into unnatural positions.
I let out a frightened scream and jumped back in terror.
“Mr. McKent! Are you okay?” I asked in a panic, recoiling at the scene in front of me.
“Get away!” I heard him yell again, but his words soon distorted into a beastly growl as his body suddenly began to grow in stature, the painful cracking of bones becoming more prominent and appaling.
I slowly backed away towards the door, though my mind did not seem to be fully processing the scene before me.
I continued to watch in terror as my boss’ clothes ripped apart, falling to shreds on the ground before him and being replaced by thick and messy tufts of fur emerging from beneath.
The horrendous cries of pain and terror being emitted by the animal were just as revolting as the transformation, and my teeth chattered uncontrollably with fright and pity.
Mr. McKent's bare, human feet began to widen, sharp and dark nails extending excruciatingly from each toe at an agonisingly slow and painful pace.
His face then began to morphe, his eyes suddenly turning a deep shade of yellow and fangs emerging grotesquely from his blood-red gums. With a final yell, his ears began to grow--pointy, upright and large.
The human, now turned beast, let out a bone-chilling howl that made the hairs stick up on the back of my neck as I stood still, not daring to move.
I could feel sweat gathering on my forehead and my entire body began to tremble in fear. My breathing increased to an uncontrollable pace and my heart continued to pound harder and harder.
The animal must have been able to sense my fear, because it slowly turned to me, it’s deep yellow eyes staring intensely into mine.
With a sudden movement, it’s dark pupils dilated and it suddenly lunged in my direction at full force.
In those fleeting milliseconds, I still could not bring myself to move no matter how much I tried. I was like a statue in a burning museum that could not escape the deadly flames. So, I simply closed my eyes, preparing to meet my gruesome and horrible end.
But then, the loud and heavy sound of metal chains made my eyes shoot open. Clank!
I realised that the animal was being held back, merely centimetres away from my face.
I could sense it’s dreadful breath and almost feel the moisture from the saliva that dripped grotesquely from between it’s gnashing teeth.
It’s yellow, veiny eyes peered savagely into my frightened ones, and without another thought, I forced myself to turn and run to the door, praying that it might be unlocked.
Upon reaching the exit, I tried repeatedly at the handle, but it would not budge. I was trapped.
My heart continued to pound as the beast repeatedly threw itself at me, attempting to break the chains that held it back.
Although I tried to hang onto the hope that maybe the shackles would keep it away from me, I knew that the metal bonds were ultimately no match for it’s fierce strength.
While I knew I was too weak, I continued desperately to push and kick at the door, hoping that maybe it would somehow clear the exit.
Then, the inevitable happened and the beast broke loose from the restraints a few metres behind me, letting out a triumphant and blood-thirsty howl before charging in my direction at full speed.
This time, I did not stay immobile and managed to jump aside so that it rammed directly into the door at full force, breaking the material and landing on the floor in a sudden shock.
It had, however, managed to grab ahold of my necklace in the process, a precious gift from my mother, and had pulled at it forcefully, jerking my neck forward. The chain had snapped quickly and I took the opportunity to make my escape, jumping over the stunned creature and running as fast as my legs would permit through the dense forest that bordered the back of the building.
The wind blew fiercely against me and the snow, now having become a heavy hail, beat painfully down upon my exposed skin.
I didn’t know where I was, and I didn’t dare look back in fear.
I knew that he could sense me. He would follow my tracks.
I soon felt my breath growing increasingly heavier and faster as my heart continued to beat louder and louder. I was getting tired.
I did not know for how long I had been running, nor where I was going, but I knew that I would not be able to go much further, and my knees soon gave in, the pressure of the cruel weather weighing down on me and the exhaust taking control. I could not go any further.
My head was dizzy and my heart was pounding, and this time, I fell into an unconscious bliss, the last thing I heard being a beastly howl in the distance.
My eyes shot open painfully and I inhaled a sharp breath of air.
I was no longer in the forest behind the store being pursued by the terrible beast.
No, it must have been a dream. But it was so real, so...terrifying.
I groaned and tried to sit up, but suddenly felt a sharp pain in my back and immediately lay back down.
Cassey soon appeared at my side and I was filled with a sudden relief, infinitely grateful for her reassuring prescence.
“Amanda, are you okay?” She asked, a worried expression plastered across her features.
“I-I don’t know.” I admitted, still quite confused “Where are we?”
“In the hospital.” She explained.
“The hospital?” I repeated, taken aback.
She nodded in response. “The car accident was pretty bad.”
“Car accident?” I repeated again.
“Yeah,” She continued, “I told you to stay at the store and wait till the storm died down, but I guess that somebody got impulsive!” She added with dissapointment, both arms crossed against her chest.
I knitted my eyebrows together. So was it not a dream then?
“I did stay at the store, but then I went in the back room and-”
Just then, I noticed the small figure of Mr. McKent, leant up against the doorframe of the room.
My eyes went wide and I immediately began to tremble violently.
“He-he’s a w-” I began “he chased me through the woods and-”
“Amanda, calm down,” said Cassey, rubbing my back soothingly “it’s alright. You’re okay.”
Mr. McKent did not seem at all taken aback by my unusual claims, but quickly averted his gaze from my direction, probably slightly uncomfortable under my perplexed and tense stare.
“Mr. McKent found your car at the side of the road. You must have lost control…” Explained Cas “He saved you.”
The memories going through my head had seemed so vivid...so real.
I could not take my eyes away from Mr. McKent. Surely, he was hiding something. He had to be. Was I going mad?
Then, a doctor entered the room and walked quickly to my bedside where he began to adjust one of the machines.
“How are you feeling, Amanda?” He then asked, turning to me, a pen hovering over his clipboard.
I could not answer. I was lost in thought; trying to make sense of it all.
Then, I saw Mr. McKent turn around as if he was about to leave and a sudden memory resurfaced, my left hand flying instinctively to my lower neck.
“My necklace.” Was all that I whispered after having sensed the emptiness.
Mr. McKent, who had somehow managed to hear my feeble words, turned back and came right up to my side.
I gulped nervously but stayed very still, both anxious and curious of what he might do.
Then, he made a subtle movement and reached into his coat pocket, pulling out the broken chain and placing it in the palm of my hand. “Found it beside you in the car.” Was the only explanation he offered before leaving the room.
It may have just been my imagination, or perhaps the strong anesthetics had messed up my senses, but I swear that for a fleeting second, his eyes flashed bright yellow as he turned and disappeared forevermore.