The Night Beast
The brilliance of the full moon penetrated the darkest depths of the wood that gripped the tops of the cliffs. The wind soughed through the trees, and somewhere an owl hooted; the night teemed with life.
The moon was bright enough to light Chloe's path through the forest. She moved quickly through the underbrush, trying to keep her jeans from tearing on brambles. She had been running for what felt like ages. Her throat burned and her dirty-blonde hair stuck to her skin with sweat, but she didn't slow down. She didn't dare to.
It wasn't far behind.
What occupied her mind, even as she darted past the trees, scurried under low branches and fought her way through patches of nettles, was how quickly the attack had happened. She and three friends had been sitting in a circle around a campfire in a clearing when a dark shape descended upon them suddenly. Chloe's best friend Lauren saw it first and she screamed. The thing, huge, black and hairy with silvery eyes and gleaming razor-sharp teeth, slashed at Lauren with claws at least five inches long. There was blood. Chloe's other friends, James and Mark, tried to intervene, but they were simultaneously savaged; the monster's speed was incredible.
That was when Chloe, filled with terror and pumped with adrenaline, took off into the dark. She was not abandoning her friends, because her friends were all dead.
She was running when a cry broke the air; a long, high, ululating scream. Chloe stopped dead. The sound that she heard was not human. It seemed to go on and on. It was ugly and terrible; a sound of pain and unrelenting fury. Chloe had no idea what animal or entity was capable of creating such a noise. What had attacked them in the clearing? It could not have been a bear, although it was a bear's size, because there are no bears native to the Peak District in England, and this also ruled out big and wild cats, such as pumas and panthers.
No, the word her mind had landed on wasn't right, it couldn't be. Chloe scolded herself: there was no such thing as werewolves. No, the thing that had slaughtered her friends could not have been of supernatural or mythical origin, and she would have been naive to think it. She looked up at the full moon, lost in her thoughts.
Had Chloe been more vigilant, she would have heard the heavy footfalls on the forest floor, the snapping of twigs and the rustling of leaves. She would have heard the werewolf's ragged breathing as it slunk towards her in the darkness.
As it was, she remained entirely ignorant, even as one huge, matt-black, hair-covered arm was raised and then swung. The werewolf beheaded the girl who didn't believe in werewolves with one swipe of his claw, and as the brunette's head hit the ground with a thump, a cloud passed over the moon.
A man stood naked in the forest, staring at a headless corpse and a head. Though its eyes were glazed, the face still wore its bemused expression, as the girl had wondered what was chasing her, even up to the moment of her death. And now the innocent, slain woman would never know.
'Damn,' said the man.