Frigid night air chilled his skin, skeletal branches scratched his arms and face, wind howled in his ears, and his heart pounded so loud and hard that he thought it might burst from his chest. None of that slowed James in the slightest. His worn boots raced over the carpet of fallen leaves as gut-wrenching screams tore through the night air behind him and sent jolts of fear into his heart. A small, scared voice in the back of his head urged him to turn back and help, to see if anyone had survived. His instincts, on the other hand, commanded him to flee.
Another tortured scream penetrated the darkness, the sound making him cringe and fight back tears while trying his hardest to keep on running. It sounded like Gabe was being ripped to pieces. Moonlight shone from above and glistened off the streaks of red blood painting his jacket and jeans. It wasn't his. No, it belonged to that of his friends.
One minute, they were all warming up in the cabin and drinking cheap liquor, and then that thing tore through the wall and into them like wet paper. Kelsey and Max didn't even have time to scream; gone under a whirlwind of teeth and fur and snapping jaws. Brock tried to fight back with the revolver his father gave him for their camping trip into the woods, but he didn't live long enough to fire a single shot. It had been Jonathan who pulled James out of the blood-soaked cabin, out of his fear-stricken stupor, and out of the path of death's jaws. He was also took his place in those jaws, and it was his blood that stained James' clothes the most. The look of utter fear and pain on Jonathan's face would haunt James forever as he stood rooted to the spot; paralyzed with fear. "Run!" Was all Jonathan managed to rasp before the beast's fangs closed around his throat and parted his head from his shoulders. Gabe had been closest to the door and managed to escape outside into the snow, and James urged him to run by shoving him towards the woods. They ran screaming into the darkness together, at least until James had turned around and found Gabe was no longer with him. Soon after, the screaming started, and James was left alone to run for his life.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Oh god, I'm so sorry!"
The words ran around and around inside James' head until Gabe's screams were suddenly cut off, and all he heard was the pounding of his heart and his gasps for air.
Then, another sound pricked the edge of his hearing; deep, ragged grunting and the crashing of undergrowth that made his eyes water and his skin prickle in fear. Glancing over his shoulder, he thought he glimpsed a large shape moving through the trees behind him.
James gasped in terror and kept on running until he suddenly burst from the tree line, tripped over a thick root, and went tumbling down hard onto a dirt road. He groaned as he tried to get back up, but exhaustion was taking its toll on him. The adrenaline rush was beginning to fade, and his muscles grew heavy with fatigue and screamed for rest.
"Damn it! Goddamn it!" James sobbed out loud, the panic and shock having finally gotten the better of him.
WHY! Why them? What did he and his friends do to deserve this?! Being killed by some...some monster!? He should have done something! He shouldn't have let them die!
A violent sob rocked his body, and tears mixed with the snow as old memories and feelings burst into the forefront of his mind.
The rain, his parents arguing, his cries for attention. Then, the glaring headlights in front of them, his parent's screams, the force of the car skidding off the road, the impact that rattled his teeth and it was all his fault! Mommy, daddy, I'm so sorry! Please, just wake up! PLEASE WAKE UP! I'M SORRY I'M SORRY I'M SORRY-
He was awash in self-loathing. He hated himself! Hated his cowardice! They died right in front of him, and he had done nothing!
He shouldn't have let them die!
A deafening crash jolted him from his grief, and James spun around just as something exploded from the trees and slammed into him like a freight train. A mass of dark fur fell on top of him, and long fangs sank deep into the meat of his shoulder, scraping his collarbone and turning him into a flailing mess of agony and panic. The creature shook its head back and forth, snarling and biting, tearing his clothes to rags and scratching down his chest to get at his stomach, spilling his blood onto the earth.
Just as James felt his consciousness begin to slip, the world exploded with light, and then with noise. A loud and pained yelp filled his ears, and the teeth pulled from his flesh. Heavy padding of the beast's footfalls faded into the dark, and another round of explosions chased after it.
Despite the ringing in his ears, James thought he heard voices and tilted his head towards the light, which turned out to be the floodlights of a truck. A figure came running out of the glare to his side and was yelling something, but James just couldn't focus on the words and let his gaze trail up to the night sky.
Up above, he saw the full moon shining bright against the starts, and everything went black as a howl echoed through the night.
And at the same time, up north, two sisters screamed as they fell to their deaths, chased off the edge of Blackwood Mountain by another monster.