It was about seven o'clock that night when Jack asked if I wanted to go for a ride. “A ride?” I glanced out of the window. The last rays of the sun were just slipping below the distant mountains. “Isn't it a little late?”
“C'mon, Kitty. It's a full moon tonight.”
Right then, something should have clicked. I'd heard the legends…
“Okay,” I said. “Let me just get ready. Bring Lady for me?”
“Of course. Pack us some supper.”
By the time Jack rode up on his stallion, leading my mare behind him, I not only had some food packed, but was waiting rather impatiently on my front porch for him. The full moon had started to rise, as promised, and a light mist was starting to creep out from the scrub trees in the front yard. Hastings snorted and shook his head as Jack reined him in; Lady gave a low whinny in greeting as I ran out to meet them. He tossed me Lady's reins and then nudged Hastings forward.
The moon continued to rise, turning the lush grass into a gilt-edged wasteland as we rode into the night. Jack led the way, and I was content to follow, listening to the whippoorwills call to one another in the stillness. Everything was darkness and silver.
Pretty soon, I heard another sound rising on the breeze. The river was running high and fast, thanks to the wet spring we'd had, and I could hear it laughing as it rushed along its bed. Weeping willows lined the banks, and in the moonlight, I could almost see the faeries my father had told me stories of riding their horses through the rills of foam. A magical night, this one. Almost anything could happen.
We tethered the horses to one of the trees and Jack spread the blanket out on the ground. The moon drenched the entire area in a pale light as the spray from the river and the fog intertwined incestuously around us. I unpacked our late supper: crackers, brie and smoked sausage, along with strawberries and of course, a bottle of wine. Lying facing one another on the blanket. Time had fallen away, lost in the fog, and we were the center of our own universe.
Afterwards, we lay entangled, in the breeze from the river as the mist crept forward. Jack had brought another blanket and we snuggled together, talking softly of the future as we sipped our glasses of wine.
Which is probably why we didn't hear them. That, and they moved like ghosts, barely touching the ground.
Without warning, they stood above us: four men, silver as the moonlight. The mist had thickened, so I couldn't see their feet; nor did I really care. What I knew was that they were standing, and fully clothed, and we were neither. And Jack's gun belt wasn't close at hand.
They must have been related: as they stared down at us, the same features glowed in the moonlight. Pale faces, with strong, stubborn jaws, a five-o'clock shadow of silky hair, and piercing green eyes. I shivered as they stood there, staring.
Jack recovered first. “What do you want? Money?” His arm tightened around me. “Take my wallet. Take it.”
They didn't respond. Just continued to stare down at us.
“Just leave us alone.” Jack's voice was still calm.
One of them finally shook his head, slowly, deliberately, and I swallowed, the wine turned to dust in my mouth. I knew what was coming next and shrank from the arms that reached down. If only I could reach the guns…
They were faster than I thought: in an instant, I'd been ripped from Jack's protective embrace and hauled to my feet, the blanket falling away from me. Two of them had Jack between them; the third had me. I could feel the heat from his body behind me: a whimper rose in my throat, answered by the leader's growl.
“Tie her. I don't want her involved.”
Within moments, I was tied to one of the willows with the remains of Jack's shirt, my wrists hooked around a branch. I kicked and screamed, knowing there was no one around who could hear. Succeeding in only frightening the horses and getting a gag stuck in my mouth. After that, all I could was watch. And pray.
Once I was out of the picture, they…changed. Shifted. I thought it was the wine, until the first drops of Jack's blood splattered against the ground. Their claws, their teeth – everything savaged him. The more he bled, the more they attacked, rabid dogs with prey in their sights. I couldn't avoid the scene: even when I closed my eyes, I could see, could hear. Jack begged for mercy, begged them to stop…and then begged them to finish him, to kill him. To end it. All he got in response was more cuts, and their growls. Those inhuman growls.
Something wet hit me: the scent of copper hit my nose and I knew it wasn't water. All I could hear was Jack's cries, weaker now and intermixed with the crunch of bone. They weren't just eviscerating him.
They were eating him.
I don't remember when it stopped, or when they left. At some point, everything went quiet again: all I heard was the river, still laughing in its banks. The whippoorwills came back out and started calling. There were hoofbeats in the distance, or possibly thunder. I couldn't tell.
Forcing my eyes open, I immediately gagged at the ruined body near me. What remained of Jack's chest still moved, up and down, somehow. They hadn't killed him. Bastards.
The gag had been simply shoved in my mouth: I turned my head away and spit it out, then looked at the rags holding my hands. I had to get free. I had to finish this. Before the moon dropped below the horizon.
The knots were tight, but fear lent me strength, and my teeth ripped at the knots. They hadn't killed him. But had they left me my guns?
Finally, my hands fell to my lap, my fingers numb. I scrambled to my feet, rushing past Jack to the blanket, to his gun belt…
I grabbed the gun and turned back to the figure on the ground.
Except he wasn't on the ground anymore. He was rising, impossibly, and I struggled to unsnap the strap on the holster as he stumbled, fell and rose again, coming towards me. A steady stream of half-vocalized curses and prayers burst from me. I had to get the gun out…
He lunged forward, reaching for me, and I spun, the gun going off and jerking him backwards. A howl, half-human and half-wolf, ripped the darkening sky to shreds. I had to finish this.
As Jack rose, hair already beginning to darken his torn skin, I raised the gun again and aimed. One sharp retort, two, and he fell. The hole in his head bubbled a little as silver ate into his brain, and his body twitched. Then, as the moon fell into the hills, the corpse crumbled.
And I cried.
Kitty awarded 1 Benny and 1 XP