Moon Blood

1

I was confused. Several people surrounded me, all on horseback. The forest was dense, the treetops only sparsely revealing glimpses of stars overhead. A dim, orange moon hung low on the horizon. Pointed tree branches clawed upwards like twisted fingers. The only audible clue to our movement was the clopping of hooves on what sounded like a stone littered dirt road. It was hauntingly quiet. I was riding sidesaddle on a brown charger. This surprised me, but then I realized I was wearing a huge cumbersome dress. It felt heavy, and though the night air was chilly, I distinctly knew I had been perspiring for quite some time.

At once, the night came alive with a ghostly howl. The pitch was shrill and ran chills up my spine. Why did that sound frighten me? Suddenly I knew it had frightened the other riders as well, they began to gain speed, breaking into a frenzied cantor. Although they never spoke, it felt as if the leader communicated something to the others. The forest gave way to a clearing. Several riders scattered down diverging roads, and our party became only three, including myself. My heart raced with nervousness. I began to fall behind as we approached another thick patch of trees.

My horse rounded a corner slowly, the trail forked here. Hesitantly, I led him to the left. His feet on the gravel were the only sound in the heavy night. A slight breeze tussled my hair. I was now completely alone. Several tense minutes went by. I glanced over to my left. I must have caught movement with my eye, because I suddenly focused in on an eerie hairy object. My breath was lost. The creature opened two glowing yellow eyes: eyes that shone with an unnatural light. They were suddenly intense, focused, and they were looking straight at me! I held the creature's gaze, and though I wanted to look away, I just stared. I began to detect the sound of a low, almost inaudible growl. My heart pounded. Surely it was growling. I was in danger. Suddenly I felt very alone and remorseful, but I wasn't sure what I was feeling regret about.

Another movement caught my attention, and there, only a few feet from me, clinging to a tree was a hideous creature. It was remarkably snake-like, yet more human that the other creature now retreating into the woods. The skin was scaly and bright red. The eyes were evil; huge round black disks surrounded by maroon rings. There was no nose to speak of except small slits just above the mouth. A stench of rotten flesh flew at me and I tried not to vomit. Where its clawed fingers clung to the tree trunk was scorched with three corresponding black burns several inches deep. It had a skinny, rat-like tail. I was paralyzed with fear. The creature emitted a strange hissing sound and I felt cold. One long thin arm reached out towards my face, and I screamed as the burning hot claw touched my face.