Blood Beast, p.1Mark MacKenzie
The Uninvited presents…
by Mark MacKenzie
Published by Pterotype Digital
cover art by John MacKenzie
The Uninvited is a horror anthology magazine highlighting original horror and weird fiction stories and comics from around the globe!
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The first impact wakes you. There is no surprise, no moment of grogginess as your eyes open in the darkness of the cavern. You know it has been 140 winters since you last awoke and ventured outside. And you know that the concussion which still reverberates in the rock around you is small, sharp and nearby, totally unlike the abrupt shifts of the earth that you have known over the millions of years since you were first spawned, totally unlike the roar of a volcano or the immense slow convulsions that so long ago carried your mother away and changed all you had ever known.
You feel the distant rhythmic impacts, too precise and regular to be a product of the earth around you. These are the actions of an animal and at that knowledge your body is wracked by the need for prey. Your jaws flex with the desire to tear and rend flesh, your stomach, long emptied of your final meal before you returned to hibernation, is pinched and hollow.
Your huge solidly-muscled body rolls off into the black water. The passage to the lake is still clear. Once, thousands of years ago, you woke to find it frozen solid. That time you simply returned to your resting place and shut down again for a future millennium. But now in the open water you stretch out and enjoy the freedom of movement. As before, there is little to be eaten in the lake. You find a sturgeon in the bottom muck and devour it. Not the way it was long ago when the great beasts were plentiful. The prey was large and filling. The sturgeon only puts an edge on your appetite.
The surface of the lake is still and empty. It looks much as it did the last time you were out. The mountains standing up all around it, their slopes thickly covered with trees. Then the prey was meager, a few deer, small and bony, and the soft two-legged ones that paddled on the water in a carved-out tree-trunk. Soft and easy to catch, but inadequate as a meal.
But on the forested slopes there are clearings and obvious trails cut into the trees and your predator’s eye sees movement. Far up on the hillside some huge creature with a bright yellow hide is gnawing at the trees.
Far, far back in time when you were a hatchling first taught by your mother to hunt, the prey was huge and plentiful. You knew it would again be thus. As your mother had once taught you so very long ago, your kind’s greatest asset was not your strength, your speed, your fierce and relentless desire to kill and eat, no matter how considerable these qualities are. It was your ability to outlast. You could sleep for long ages of time. When game was scarce you would sleep, when it was plentiful you would thrive.
The sensors in your body detect the minute vibrations carried down from high on the hillside, transferred through the mountain bedrock to the water of the lake. Your complex brain makes precise and instantaneous calculations. Creatures of great size and weight are on the move. The great beasts have returned. Now is the time to eat your fill again, to delight in blood. You swim for shore in anticipation of the feast.
Your kind does not belong on this world. So your mother had told you. You come from another place under a different sun from the one shining down in the blue sky. There, on your mother’s home-world, the sun was blue and bright and the sky orange. Three moons circled overhead. This world with its sickly yellow star, its one moon- this was the place she landed in before you were hatched.
In your true home the game was plentiful and huge, but beings from another star came and captured your mother. Weak and cunning, they had a capacity to build huge machines that could fly through space between the stars. Things your kind could comprehend but had never needed. These beings sought prey too, for the pleasure of killing, which was understandable, but not for food, which was a mystery.
They came to this world also to acquire more prey. Your mother saw her chance and took it. When the opportunity presented itself she killed her captors and escaped. In this world, though it was an alien place, she found she could survive. Many creatures could challenge her but none could defeat her. She took her prey where she found it, for it was a rich world with many different creatures to eat. When you were hatched she taught you well and the two of you grew and thrived.
A new star appeared in the sky in that long ago time. Unmoving, it grew brighter every day for weeks. Your mother understood it was another moon and likely to crash into this world. She found a cave in the mountains for you to hide in and as you gorged on meat in those final days together, she warned you of how you would have to sleep for eons. She had taught you to close your body down in lean years before. Now she gave you the full instruction in how to prepare for a truly long sleep. But the day that it struck in some other part of the world the sky rained fire and the ground thrashed like waves on the ocean. The sun was blotted from the sky by clouds of ash. You found shelter, somehow she did not.
You awakened many times over thousands, then millions of years, waiting for the conditions to improve. Once again the world was warm and full of life and you hunted freely, alone and unopposed. When the world changed and the great ice came you went to ground again. When the ice left, the world was weaker. You could survive, but there was little game that was big enough for a truly enjoyable feast. The deep rending of flesh, the huge gouts of blood as your jaws closed upon a massive and still-beating heart- these were only a thing of memory. The largest prey you could find was hardly bigger than you, and feeble in its attempts to defend itself. This was a dull and unrewarding life hardly worth staying awake for.
So you returned to the cave. Occasionally you would awaken, eat some weak, thrashing thing, find it too small to satisfy your appetite, and return to sleep. But now with the sight of the large yellow beast in the distance comes hope. Prey of that size is worth eating. It would fight back enough to give the chase some excitement, but it would ultimately lose and reward you with a feast worthy of your kind as your mother had taught you so long ago.
The beast roars constantly and it tears and drags the trees with jerky movements. It has a strange smell and it seems oblivious to your approach. You waste no time in stalking it, though it is considerably bigger than you. Its size is not overwhelming, but still substantial and your greed gets the better of you. You don’t play it like you once would have played prey of its size; cutting it and making it run, weakening it with deep but non-lethal bites to enjoy the creature’s death struggles and the glorious smell of its blood. Freshly awakened from your long stasis, your craving for blood and meat is all-consuming, and you spring upon it to deliver the death bite.
It has a hard, armoured carapace, and as you tear the veins from its neck the blood spurts hot and foul-tasting into your mouth, oily, like something from the earth and not the flesh of a living creature. As the claws on your tentacles and your hind feet tear at its body, it quickly falls silent and its long neck collapses in a disappointingly quick death. Your teeth can find no softness to grip and tear. Nothing worth eating and you rear back in confusion.
But there is still movement. In a kind of blister that you can see through, there is a smallish being squirming around and screaming. It seems to be one of those two-legged things you used to find occasionally on the lake-shore or paddling in their carved-out logs.
You realize with astonishment that this thing you thought was prey was simply a machine they have built, and this creature is inside the machine and must have been controlling it. You punch
Senses from the back of your broad armoured head detect movement from behind you and you see several more of these creatures. They all seem to be running for a common objective, a white and orange thing sitting in the gravel trail that leads into the clearing. Some of them are screaming. You run faster than them so it is easy to catch one and impale its legs with the tentacle claw so it cannot escape. You can come back for it later. They are climbing into the white and orange thing and as you approach it starts moving. It is another machine, a machine for carrying them around. You leap on the back of the machine and find it is pleasurable to ride on it like this, like when you used to cling to large prey as they would run desperately across the plains. Doomed but still trying to escape.
You tear open the top of the vehicle and pluck one of the creatures out. A gentle bite cripples it and you toss it over your shoulder to collect later. One by one you take the rest of them, leaving the one in control of the vehicle for last. You watch this one; see its limbs working the controls, and how the vehicle responds to the creature’s movements.
Creatures who build moving machines. Could they be the ones that once captured your mother millions of years go and took her here from your kind’s home world? Or are they different creatures that have evolved on this world? This will require some consideration and some deep thought.
The creature driving the machine is screaming as you sit and watch it. It doesn’t seem intelligent enough to devise a means of escape. It is simply driving blindly. Good enough to eat, but boring as prey. You snatch it from the seat and leap from the vehicle as it crashes into the trees.
In the hard-packed dirt road you take the creature apart. You tear an arm off, a foot. Still it lives, but it has little fight in it. So you devour the rest of it and move on.
Leaping along the road is pleasant. You realize it has been so long since you moved like this. Running on your hind legs, the short forelegs with their grasping claws tucked close to your chest, your tail streaming out behind for balance and the two tentacles that sprout from your shoulders flowing back along your body. It is good to move fast again with the taste of flesh in your mouth. Sure enough, you come across the others where you have left them broken and scattered and one by one you eat them too. But it is a disappointing hunt. These small, weak beings are meager food. For now the exercise has made your metabolism kick in and you must eat more.
The lackluster efforts of this feeble prey fill you with contempt as you come upon them helplessly awaiting their end. Their terror is obvious, but they fight poorly. Only one has even crawled to a hiding spot, and it is easily found and eaten.
You are picking through the remains. The torso and upper legs are the only parts with a significant amount of meat. To have to eat the ends of the limbs is for scavengers, and except in the first joy of the kill when the blood-glut frenzy possesses you, you would prefer not to. It feels demeaning. It will take many of these creatures before you have filled your belly.
A sharp concussion like the one that first awakened you echoes through the air. There must be more of these beings and their machines nearby. You leap for the treeline in the direction of the sound and soon come upon another compacted gravel road. At the end of the road is another machine that seems to be probing the ground. For a moment you are almost fooled into thinking it is one of the great beasts of the ancient days, but the constant roar it makes and the oily smell tells you it is the same as the other machine and you waste no time on it. There are only three of the two-legged creatures. They are easily caught. You play with them for a while until they grow tiresome and then you eat them. You must find more to eat.
The roads they build must come from the place where they live. There must be many more of them. You will follow the road back to the place they come from.
Blood Beast by Mark MacKenzie / Horror have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes