Aphelion Issue 256, Volume 24
November 2020
 
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Destroy the Beast



by Wayne Haroutunian





I appeared atop a wooden structure at night, in the middle of a desert-like valley. The valley was bordered on all sides by sand-mountains beyond which I couldn't  see. Strangely, electric lamp posts stood at various positions and distances both down in the valley and on the mountains, so that I could see the surface of the land as clear as though it were daytime. Upon observing my more immediate environment I could see that the wooden structure upon which I stood was a five-story tower, each floor of which would hold no more than ten people comfortably. On the floor, a small opening yawned up at me. Through this opening I saw a narrow stairwell descending to the lower floors. On a ledge before me sat a pair of binoculars.

    It was not long before I heard something which paralyzed me such that I couldn't help but stand there and hear it: A high-pitched, ear-piercing scream coming from some kind of animal or beast, which filled the entire valley and then echoed for a few moments until it died and left the valley in silence again.

    I then heard the shouting of men and women coming from below and the stomping of boots coming up the steps.
    Out of the mouth in the floor erupted five men and women, dressed in black and armed. One man carried a rocket launcher and shoved it into my arms, yelling something to me at the same time. I couldn’t understand what he or the others were saying—their voices were muted, muffled.

    The man who had given me the heavy weapon looked at me again and pointed down the valley, towards the sand-mountains at the far end, again shouting something incomprehensible. He then snatched up the binoculars and looked through them at these same mountains.

    The other four men and women looked also, straining to see into the far distance.
    That abominable howl cut through the world again, again ear-piercing and distant, yet pervasive, and sounding like the thing issuing it was either under unspeakable torment, or terribly hungry.

    The men and women shouted even louder, their voices still blurred. The man with the binoculars lowered them and shouted at me, pointing first at the rocket launcher in my arms, then at the distant mountains. Then he promptly looked through the binoculars again.

    I looked at the others. They shouted at me, pointing at the mountains.

    I lifted the rocket launcher onto my right shoulder, found the trigger with my finger and looked into the eye-cup. Through the crosshairs I saw the mountains: empty and lifeless.

    But then I spotted something. A dark shape came up from behind the peak of one of the mountains and stood there, upright on its hind legs.

    I heard the man with the binoculars shout something.

    The shrill, echoing scream filled the valley again.

    Then the dark shape started running down the side of the mountain, coming towards us.

    The man with the binoculars shouted again, and the others started bustling about behind me. They were shouting at me also, and all I heard was blurred, muffled, loud chaos, and I could feel my heart pounding, and I tried to hold the cross-hairs steady on the coming black thing, but it was moving quickly...

    In a daze I realized that at the rate at which it approached, it would reach us in a few minutes even despite the distance between us.

    My attention was again taken by the shouting men and women, and I came out of the daze only to find that I had lost sight of the black thing in my viewfinder. Wildly, I swung the rocket launcher left and right and up and down, trying to locate the beast...

    I spotted it. It was now much nearer than before. Running on all fours, it had the body of a man—though easily twice the size, and unclothed and bronzed—yet not a man’s head.

    ...Its head was enormous and thick with brown hair or fur. The amount of space occupied by its two eyes was at least half of the thing’s face; they were each the size of an eating plate and were each a pure, shadeless black: no pupils or irises—just black saucers. The bottom half of its face was taken up by a full set of dozens of long teeth, which were permanently exposed and lipless.

    I was suddenly smacked on the back and shouted at.

    In reaction, I pulled the trigger. The rocket issued forth in a cloud of smoke and the backfire knocked me off my feet. One of the men helped me back up and relieved me of the empty weapon. I strained to see the valley through the smoke.

    None of us could see a thing. The men and women had stopped shouting.
    An explosion occurred somewhere further down the valley.

    Then all was silent again. The smoke finally cleared and I could see the electrified valley again.

    However, I didn’t see the beast. The valley was empty ... quiet.

    The man with the binoculars raised them to his eyes.

    All of us looked out into the valley.

    I grabbed the rocket launcher, raised it onto my shoulder again and used the eye-cup to see farther into the valley.

    But before I could make out a thing, the loudest, most deafening scream of all erupted from the ground five stories below...

    I felt the entire wooden structure shaking as though something large was scaling the side of it. In a blur, I saw one of the women reach into a pocket at her side and pull out a grenade...



THE END


2014 Wayne Haroutunian


Bio: Wayne Haroutunian lives and writes in California. His fiction has appeared in Sirens Call and he has received an Honorable Mention for an urban sci-fi novelette in the Writers of the Future Awards. His Haiku poetry is available on www.lulu.com. You can find his ebooks on Smashwords.


E-mail: Wayne Haroutunian

 

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