53 comments

Fiction Horror Science Fiction

The weather turns overnight. With the fall, the sky grows bluer than the preacher has ever known or can remember. He sits for an hour in the windy sedge with the sun on his back as if he is storing the warmth of it against the coming winter. 

The leaves on the hardwood trees on the mountain burst into colorful flames, and then, ultimate nakedness. An early winter falls. An old wind sucks beneath the black and barren branches. The preacher is alone in the empty house and watches the bone-colored moon come crawling over a black ridge. Ink trees are sketched against the paler dark of winter heavens. 

The preacher, much to himself, slouches and drinks. A rifle hangs in his hand as if it were a curse he’ll never escape. He grows lean and bitter as the barrel presses against the morphing skin beneath his chin. He angrily gulps the burning brown fluid and tries to force his long-nailed finger to pull the trigger, but a maligned star keeps him from doing so. 

He stands and listens to other men’s hounds on the mountain, a figure of wretched arrogance in the lights of the few cars passing. In their coiling dust, he curses or mutters or spits after them. As his skin begins to rip and his senses coalesce with the birth pangs of an alien form. He knows the time has come. 

The changed being abandons the fleeting window of opportunity to pull the trigger. Crouched behind a tree, he sees the two men tightly shouldered in the high old sedan with guns and jars of whiskey among them. Daniel and Jim progress towards the field, unaware of the beast lurking in the dark. 

In the dark of the skyline, they see him pass. He’s a lean and angular figure laboring among the nightshade of moon-sprayed grass. Daniel and Jim grip each other's arms over the shaded blue of furrowed brick before finally letting go. Their eyes meet one last time, and they nod in agreement. The time has come. 

Daniel powers a beam that flashes rays of artificial sun. When the light of the sealed beam cuts over the field, the entity is lying over a hunk of mass with clothes ripped and torn. The gleam sweeps past, then stops and fixes on the being that squats like some grim wraith. 

“It’s him.” 

Before them is a stark shadow revealing something inhuman and carnal. A pair of twiggy legs galvanized in the night. 

“Throw the light to him.” 

“That sure ain’t no preacher.” 

It stands, hairy and tall, in the middle of a leaf-littered floor facing them. It blinks with huge black eyes. Blood drips from a loose-jawed mouth, and stained clothing is shredded in sharp teeth. 

“We gotcha’, preacher! Don’t move.” 

But the thing does. It spits a pair of bloody overall bibs out its mouth and turns to run. It lunges side to side and jumps in a series of erratic and unpredictable leaps. The light jitters and loses track of the beast. 

“What the..? 

“Can you see him, Jim?” 

He cannot. 

They continue the pursuit until approaching an open juncture surrounded by tall, lurching trees. The ray of false sunlight scans the outer dark clockwise and back again. 

A raspy growl crescendos into a thundering bark from beyond the perimeter

“There. There!” 

“I see it! 

The light captures the target, and the alien wolf-like creature begins to shriek and howl. The light burns its rugged and furry coat. Its skin chars and steams. 

“We got you, son of a bitch!” 

It has a detached human limb fettered in fists of jagged razor fingernails. Caught in the light for a moment, it blinks one more time, drops the human remains, and scurries out of the light back towards town.

A train roars twice in the darkness, and the pair of hunters rush towards it. “God have mercy. You seeing this thing move?” 

“Holy good God Jesus, what is that?” 

“Sure as hell ain’t no preacher.” 

They begin to fire aimlessly in the dark. Bursting flames spark sporadically in the pitch black as sweltering silver bullets pop and chitter through punctured trunks. 

“Oh, God! The train, Jim! It’s gonna beat us.” 

“Move, dammit! Move!” 

The dark boxes of the train approach rapidly, and through the shadows, it weaves a divide between the midnight forest and the monochrome lights of the city. The bullets tink and ricochet back towards the pursuing hunters and the saplings behind.

The train approaches like a vast rattling worm and its headlights capture the wolf one last time before it leaps from the tracks towards the city. 

The hunters retreat from the rattling cars, their smoking guns in hand. The beast looks at a wounded torso like a startled cat on the other side. Blood oozes from the tenderized and puckered human skin that reflects as it pours under the gray moonlight. 

Daniel kneels and observes the limping body of a wounded man beneath the wheels of the passing train. 

“What you see, Dani boy?” 

He flings the gun away from him, and Jim picks it up and stands by.

“You saw it just like I did. I reckon we got it.” 

When Jim drops to his knees, he sees nothing. 

“Looks to me like we got another sabbath to look forward to.” 

“We were that close, Jim! Just that close! Dammit!” 

“Dani boy, close don’t count.” 

— 

The preacher wakes with the undersides of his eyelids inflamed by the high sun’s hammering. He looks up to a bland and china-blue sky traversed by light wires. A big lemon-colored cat watches him from the top of a wood stove. He turns his head to see it better, and it elongates itself like hot taffy down the side of a furnace and vanishes headfirst in the earth without a sound. 

He closes his eyes and moans. A hot breeze comes across the barren waste of burnt weeds and rubble like a whiff of battle smoke. Starlings align on a wire overhead in perfect progression like a piece of knotted string fallen slant-wise. Hooked wings and foul mutes come squealing from under their fanned tails. The injured man sits up slowly and puts a hand over his eyes. He hears the birds fly.

His clothes crack with a thin, dry sound, and shreds of baked vomit fall from him. He struggles to his knees and stares down at the packed black earth between his palms. Sweat rolls down his skull and drips from his jaw. 

“Good God.” 

He lifts his swollen eyes to the desolation in which he knelt. There are iron-colored needles and sedges in the wreaking fields that grow like mock weeds made from wire. He looks down at himself, half-naked and caked in filth. His pockets are turned out. He tries to swallow, but his throat constricts in agony. He totters to his feet and stands reeling in the apocalyptic waste like some biblical relic far removed from the planet he came from.

February 19, 2022 03:06

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53 comments

Francis Daisy
12:20 Feb 19, 2022

Action packed! I love your descriptions!

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Dustin Gillham
17:33 Feb 19, 2022

Thank you, Francis! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

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Craig Westmore
21:10 Mar 12, 2022

Hey Dustin, I really enjoyed this story. Descriptive and fast paced. I hope you don't mind some feedback. You're a great writer and I would love to help you improve (hopefully my two cents can help). Your descriptions are great but be careful of purple prose. Don't let it bog down the action. "...a beam that flashes rays of artificial sun..." Is that a flashlight or a weapon? I assumed it was a flashlight and didn't think it needed to be described differently (I had not picked up that the story was on another planet until I read the comment...

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Dustin Gillham
21:16 Mar 12, 2022

Thank you so much Craig. You had some great comments. The preacher only changes when the one of the moons on Pluto is full. I didn’t have enough time to clarify this and I wanted the action to drive the engine of the story. I see what your saying, and I certainly feel the story could have been better and that it fell short in many ways. Thanks for reading.

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Craig Westmore
14:20 Mar 13, 2022

Focusing on the action was the right call as the hunt is riveting. The dialogue of the hunters is great. When they repeat themselves, I can sense their nervousness. One week just isn't enough time to get it all worked out but if you expand on this story (and you should) I hope my comments help.

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Okashi Kashi
23:05 Mar 08, 2022

Gives me Jekyll-Hyde vibes...not a fan of horror, but I think this is great!

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Sharon Hancock
23:31 Mar 07, 2022

Such intense detail and description makes it even more suspenseful and scary, I think. Loved it! Reminded me of Midnight Mass at first, but better bc werewolves are better than vampires everyone knows that. 😂

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Dustin Gillham
02:42 Mar 08, 2022

Thanks, Sharon. I envisioned kind of an alien beast at first, but I went more with a wolf by the time I was through it.

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18:28 Mar 04, 2022

How you didn't at least get shortlisted is beyond me. You're one of the few authors on this site that actually has a rich writing style. You write so well. Your descriptions are vivid and you have a gripping plot. I salute you. You have a fucking talent. I wish you do something with this talent. It's a shame that you'e never won, not even once. Good luck anyway. I genuinely got frustrated. Lol.

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Dustin Gillham
21:02 Mar 04, 2022

Thank you so much, Ismali. I'm humbled by your compliment. It does get a bit frustrating at times but then I remember I write because I love to write. It'll happen, eventually. Fingers crossed.

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Fortunatus Eze
10:32 Mar 03, 2022

Really interesting story.

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Dustin Gillham
20:04 Mar 03, 2022

Thank you, Fortunatus.

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08:22 Mar 03, 2022

I love the way you describe things and how you don't leave any part out. I like your play with words and how effortlessly you brought this man, this beast, to life. I understand the story from both perspectives: that of the hunters and the werewolf. Basically, to them, he is dangerous and should be put down. Towards the end, we could see how uncertain he was and how shocked and disturbed it made him feel. It goes to show he knows about his other side. At the start, with the gun and the drinks, we could also tell he wanted to kill himself pr...

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Dustin Gillham
20:09 Mar 03, 2022

Abigail! Your comment truly honored me. I am so thankful that you took the time to read something outside of what you're normally used to.

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J.C. Lovero
02:50 Mar 02, 2022

Loved your vivid descriptions here, Dustin. Well done!

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Dustin Gillham
23:20 Mar 02, 2022

Thanks J.C.

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Charlie Murphy
02:46 Mar 02, 2022

Cool story! So, it was some sort of were creature?

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Dustin Gillham
23:19 Mar 02, 2022

Hey, Charlie. Yes-sir. Like a warewolf or some alien beast.

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Charlie Murphy
00:09 Mar 03, 2022

Awesome! I love those types of stories! Can you read mine, The Diaps?

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Cora V
16:47 Mar 01, 2022

I'm a sucker for spooky stories and this did wonders for my horror itch! Don't fear the reaper, fear the preacher! Love it!!!

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Philip Ebuluofor
13:29 Mar 01, 2022

Fine work. You seems to know well how to describe things.

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Dustin Gillham
23:18 Mar 02, 2022

Thanks, Philip! I’m honored you took the time to read it.

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Philip Ebuluofor
06:58 Mar 05, 2022

My pleasure.

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Kevin Broccoli
08:07 Feb 28, 2022

Dustin, you do descriptive so well. I feel like I should be taking notes as I'm reading. It definitely feels like a chapter or a summation of a much larger story. This is a fascinating look at a character who could easily go into archetype here but never does. I really enjoyed it.

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Dustin Gillham
23:16 Feb 28, 2022

Thanks, Kev. This story and the character of the preacher really changed between the first and second segments. I wanted it to. I stripped the narrative on this one quite a bit from the first draft. I had to really overlay a lot of description because the pace of the action follows two hunters who were intentionally one dimensional. I used my descriptions as I usually do but the engine of the story picks up in the second segment and leaves the reader at a sort of nadir at the end. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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18:34 Feb 27, 2022

Wow...It has a detached human limb fettered in fists of jagged razor fingernails. Caught in the light for a moment, it blinks one more time, drops the human remains, and scurries out of the light back towards town. Very graphic. Good writing.

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Dustin Gillham
19:08 Feb 27, 2022

Thank you, MC. I'm honored you took the time to read and write a comment.

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20:38 Feb 26, 2022

Excellent piece of horror! It gave me vibes of the Netflix series, “Midnight Mass.” One of my favorite lines in your story (which was a very poetic line) was “the sun on his back as if he is storing the warmth of it against the coming winter.” Your horror story is mixed with the art of beautiful poetic language which makes your writing so unique. Your descriptions amaze me are are very impactful. “He’s a lean and angular figure laboring among the nightshade of moon-sprayed grass.” Wow. You write so well it’s like a movie is playing out in my...

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Dustin Gillham
21:19 Feb 26, 2022

Thanks, Heather. I'm working on a book now! Not so sure what it's about yet. It's in the early stages. It's entitled "Pigment."

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21:37 Feb 26, 2022

Best wishes in your writing! I’m sure it will be great.

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19:11 Feb 21, 2022

This story is very descriptive and action packed. I liked the characters of Danny and Jim. Even the cat had a part. Cats are always cool. Your bible versus were spot on and the description of the service too! Great job!

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18:18 Feb 21, 2022

Please tell me what you liked about my story. I am trying to decide if its good enough to put in the contest. Thanks!

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Dustin Gillham
18:37 Feb 21, 2022

I’ve enjoyed all of your stuff. The connection to your characters and the ease to which they flow. Which one were you thinking about submitting? Let me know and I’ll give it a more in-depth look.

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19:01 Feb 21, 2022

Thank you so much. How about the "what if telescope?". I really do appreciate! I will read some of your stories too.

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Dustin Gillham
20:09 Feb 21, 2022

Okay great. Gimme about ten minutes and I will leave you a more detailed comment under your story prompt.

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14:32 Feb 21, 2022

Your writing is enthralling. I don't write horror but can appreciate yours. Love these paragraphs... A woodpecker hammers at a drainpipe outside, and the congregation’s strung heads lift and turn to the bird for silence. Daniel and Jim tap the heel of their spurred boots loudly to the rhythm of the bird throughout the entire service, but nobody expects that they will stop if God Himself looks back. He lifts his swollen eyes to the desolation in which he knelt. There are iron-colored needles and sedges in the wreaking fields that grow lik...

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Dustin Gillham
15:55 Feb 21, 2022

Molly! Horror is certainly an acquired taste. It is kind of the unruly stepchild of fiction! With that being said, I do believe it can be done tastefully. I really appreciate your compliment and I am very honored that you took the time to read and reply. All the best to you in your writing and reading journeys. We are glad you are here sharing the love! :-)

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05:47 Feb 21, 2022

Cool story!

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Dustin Gillham
15:56 Feb 21, 2022

Thank you, Leanne!

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Suma Jayachandar
03:37 Feb 21, 2022

Vivid, refreshing imagery along with fast paced action makes this a great read. I really liked your new age Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde character. Thanks for sharing.

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Dustin Gillham
03:45 Feb 21, 2022

Sweet, Suma! You got it! I had that character type on my heart and mind for this prompt. Awesome. I appreciate you reading and commenting.

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Chandler Wilson
01:04 Feb 21, 2022

Quite a story. Kept me on the edge of my seat. Your ability to vividly paint the sights and scenes woven with live action is beautiful.

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Dustin Gillham
01:41 Feb 21, 2022

Chandler! I’m so grateful you enjoyed it! I loved “the wannabe Texas lawyer” and “Julie’s Sweet Shop”! Thanks for reading. Keep up the great work my friend.

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Chandler Wilson
04:47 Feb 21, 2022

Thank you for reading my stories. I’m recovering from my experience in high tech and seeking talented writers I can lean on for direction and support. I truly enjoy and appreciate your writing.

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Dustin Gillham
15:51 Feb 21, 2022

Awe, tech jobs. Meh, too stressful! Enjoy writing Chandler. Glad we have you!

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