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Emily woke up with a start, her heart racing. She sat upright in her bed for a moment, trying to regain her composure. The room around her was dark and quiet, the air still. She swung her legs to the side of the bed and stood, stretching her arms up. For a moment she was drowsy, but then she heard the noise again.

A loud, piercing wail.

It was in the distance, very quiet. She listened for a moment, then looked at her bedside clock. Three in the morning. Who could be here at three in the goddamn morning? In the middle of nowhere, no less? She walked over to the bedroom door, opened it slowly. Nothing. She looked outside and saw and heard nothing through the adjacent window. Absolute, unsettling nothingness.

Another wail.

Emily’s heart started to beat quickly again. She slowly walked through the bedroom door. The sound was like someone screaming in agony, yet, at the same time, it wasn't. No, it sounded more to her like someone trying to emulate a scream. The stairs creaked beneath her feet as she made her way down, much louder than she would have liked. But all was silent when she reached the bottom of the stairs, torch in hand, shining it in every direction. Maybe this unwanted visitor was gone.

Maybe, just maybe, she could finally go back to bed.

No, she had to check for intruders. Maybe someone was trying to steal one of her animals, and they got injured. “I need a goddamn farmhand,” she muttered to herself as she grabbed a revolver, unlocked the back door, pushed it open, and strode out into the night.

The darkness around her was pure, unadulterated, utter blackness. She shone her torch around in an attempt to see, but there was nothing but a seemingly infinite plain of maize, stretching for as far as her eyes could see. The only natural source of light was from the stars—even the moon seemed to have retreated into the inky depths of the night. She turned around. She could barely make out the faint shape of the farmhouse behind her, shrouded by the all-encompassing void.

Just then, it seemed as though a sound rang through the darkness, coming from somewhere in the distance. She strained her ears, listening, and she heard it again, slightly louder this time. No, she swore, she heard more than that. There was a scream coming from the other side of the corn field. That was where the sheep were. She had to save her animals.

They were all she had.

Emily ran in their general direction, the torch lighting up the field ahead of her. She ran for what felt like hours, though she knew it was only about a minute. She reached the fence to their enclosure, ran around it until she found the gate, flung it open, sprinted inside, and slammed it shut behind her. Then, heart pounding and chest heaving, she stared, wide-eyed, into the darkness around her.

Something moved just beyond the edge of the torchlight's range. Something large. She quickly whirled around, the torchlight illuminating the thing in the dark, and then, she saw it.

It was enormous. The tapetum lucidum in the thing's tiny eyes reflected the light of the torch, and its long snout was coated in blood. With a set of long, dagger-like claws, the thing grasped one of Emily’s sheep—it was already dead. Still staring at her, the thing’s long neck came down, and it tore off the sheep’s head with a single, fluid motion. Emily raised her revolver with a trembling hand and aimed at the thing. It tilted its head quizzically, and then, the thing wailed, a deafening cry so loud that Emily had to cover her ears.

Purely by accident, she fired.

The thing froze, stock still—she missed, but only barely. The beast’s huge jaw yawned open, a great cavern, and the thing placed the sheep in its jaws with almost tender precision. It turned to face Emily one last time, before slowly lumbering into the darkness, a long, muscular tail trailing behind it.

She watched the thing leave, the breath catching in her throat, eyes welling with tears of rage and terror, and then she turned around and ran as quickly as she could, closing the gate behind her. She sprinted into the farmhouse, locked the door, ran into her bedroom and lay on her bed for a few hours, trying to process what exactly she saw.

For the next few weeks, Emily had nightmares. Nightmares of glowing eyes, of a dispassionate gaze, and of death.

Written by Palaeontologica
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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