a short story by
Deep-set, yellow eyes stared with impressive concentration. Snowflakes drifted down, one after another, tickling long, lupine ears and dampening fur, but there was not a flick of one of those ears, not the slightest movement. Though ravenous, lips were not licked at the sight of its potential prey—the torso so bulky, so full of precious meat.
He had been staying one step ahead of this creature that was, in its own way, capable of flight yet was anything but graceful on foot. No wonder the creature preferred height, to be above the treetops, flying and landing and flying again.
It ran in a pack, flew in a flock … however one wanted to view it. Multiple pack-mates that would no doubt fight fiercely to protect their alpha male, using sharp hooves as weapons, combined with the enormous strength they obviously possessed. He would not take down his prey without some sacrifice of his own, he was sure; blood, pain. But it would be worth it.
So much meat.
He would rip through its red fur, lay open its abdomen, and bury his snout deep in its blood and entrails. And he would feast like he hadn’t in many nights, satiating himself.
The pack led the way, their leader safely behind them, and they were either arrogant or unintelligent. They traveled in a straight, predictable line, announcing themselves with a constant jingling sound. Did it never occur to them that someone … or something … might lie in wait?
And wait, he did, watching them as they approached and descended, preparing to land. He could smell them now, the pack, a scent musky and exciting. But not appetizing. No, it was the leader who gave off a tantalizing aroma, one that beckoned him and made his mouth water.
The incline was very steep up here, and he hid behind a small tower of rough, squared-off bricks from which the scent of wood smoke rose, his claws dug into the surface, his powerful legs ready to spring forward and into their midst.
The four-legged members of the pack touched down and skidded on the snowy surface, their leader sliding along behind them, not on foot, but seated squarely upon a sledge, surrounded by overstuffed bags. There was a faint aroma of gingerbread and peppermint. The metallic jingling tapered off as the vehicle slowed down, then stopped. Impatient, and too hungry to wait a second longer, their stalker leapt out into the starlit night, fangs bared, claws extended.
Instantly, the chilled air was filled with the smell of blood and the sounds of sheer terror and brutal death.
Awakened by those sounds overhead—thumps and clattering, the clinking of small objects tumbling downward, then terrified screeches, and finally, agonizing screams—a much tinier version of that now-dead prey rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he arose and padded quietly in pajamas with feet in them, toward a window closed tightly to keep out the frigid night air. Climbing up on a broad box that was brightly colored in daylight but merely a bulky shadow by Mickey Mouse nightlight, he reached up and tugged at the lock, then shoved the window up with all the strength a 5-year-old could muster.
On the porch roof just below him, huge splotches of bright red had splattered and dripped from above, sinking into the snow. Clumps of white hair lay here and there, as smaller strands danced about on gusts of wind. A narrow band of black leather, jagged on one end, a large, shiny metal square on the other, stuck up out of the snow. Scattered about were oddly-shaped objects covered in gaudy wrappings. One in particular caught the wee one’s eye. He leaned out, shivering from the cold night air, yet too excited to care. He stretched as far as he could, his fingers barely touching the end of the long object he desired, then catching a corner and slowly sliding it over the snow, toward him. At last it was close enough to snatch it with both hands and pull it inside.
The wet snow had soaked through portions of the colorful wrapping, and it peeled away easily as the little one’s fingers tore at it, tossing bits onto the floor. Tugging open the box inside, he gripped his prize, hefted it in his hand, and grinned. He pressed one end, and suddenly it glowed brightly, a long, golden cylinder cutting through the darkness.
“Ooooh, a light saber! Cool!” the boy said, swishing it through the air as if in a sword fight with an enemy invisible in the darkness of his bedroom.
And then, remembering his manners, he scuffed back over to the window.
Sticking his head out, he caught a few snowflakes on his tongue, then shouted, “Thanks, Santa!”
Copyright © 2011 Nik Barnabee. All Rights Reserved.