It’s not the blood that terrifies him, but the way it breathes. It sucks in air as if a vice is clamped around it’s neck. A horrible wheeze, a squeak like the deflating of a balloon as it inhales, then a painstaking and slow shaky exhale. This creature has no right to exist. His mind keeps telling him this isn’t real; it claws at his consciousness, screaming at him to wake up from this nightmare but nothing happens.

It doesn’t see him. Thank Christ, it doesn’t see me. He’s half tempted to lift his gun to his shoulder, and take a shot but the piss in his bladder tells him he shouldn’t risk ruining a new pair of Carhartts. Harry back home would call him a bitch, but he doesn’t care. Harry isn’t staring down the creature from the black fuckin lagoon, is he?

He wants to get out of there, and now. Every nerve is his body fires, tingling and urging him to jolt upright and run. To not look back and put as much of this snowy landscape between him and It. He’s hot, despite the weather. Sweet hangs on his brow, he rubs it off with the sleeve of his jacket. He needs a plan, he knows.

Can’t be seen. Is the best he can come up with, and he hunkers down further, never letting go of the hunting rifle in his hand.

It stands and peers off into nothing. It wheezes, and clicks It’s head left and right with impossible speed like the turning of a dial. The rest of its body stands eerily still.

“Nooo!” a blood curdling cry rings in the impossibly quiet wilderness. “No please!” A woman shrieks from the wrecked car.  Shut up! he wants to tell her, just shut the fuck up!

But it’s too late, the thing clicks It’s head to the left, and rests It’s gaze on the overturned car. Without moving It’s head, the body pivots under, towards the car.

The woman desperately calls for help, cries for something, someone, to save her but no one comes.  Her arm extends a shaky hand in front of her protectively. The Thing with antlers lumbers towards her, the quick movements of Its head become a queer dichotomy with the almost labored steps of Its movement.  The breathing continues, the whine scratches at the bones of his spine and the breathy shudder is gives him gooseflesh.  It whistles like a pinched vacuum hose, and when it exhales, he can’t help be think it sounds like a old, dry laugh.

The Thing grabs the woman by the arm, It holds her up in front of Its face and regards her with complete apathy.

She cries for help again and struggles in the painful grip, mascara runs dark as blood down from her eyes.

PLEA–!” She starts but can’t continue because the thing has put Its mouth around her. What follows is a sound that will haunt Cooper forever.  Something violently snaps, either the monster’s mouth or this poor woman’s body, loud enough to send an echo reverberating in the valley. Like someone split a fuckin tree in half. The Thing pulls the woman back away from it’s face, but only the bottom half of her remains. It drops the mangled half down with indifference then stares off into no where and lets out a breathy laugh.

Then all at once, his nerves take over. He turns away from the gruesome scene, the wheezing breath of the beast still permeates his mind. It’s dry chuckle catches at the hairs on the back of his neck and threatens to take what little courage he has left.

He takes a step back, then another, and another.

Another snap!, though this time it’s small, minute. He looks down and sees a stick beneath his big winter boots. Cooper looks back up and finds a pair of eyes staring right at him. Eyes white as snow peering out from an impossible black void. The horned creature inhales, threatening to drive Cooper mad with fear when two more white dots appear in the forest. Jesus fucking Christ. He spots another creeping out of the shadows, this one on all fours. Both their heads tilt left and right in perfect tandem, an eerie click accompanies every movement. And still, the labored breathing continues.

All at once he understands how a deer in headlights feels. Every part of him screams to run, to turn tail and get the fuck outta dodge but he’s paralyzed. Frozen with only the ability to watch with abject horror as these two monstrosities creep towards him.

Click, click, click their rhythmic bobbing continues. They move closer, blood now dripping from the first beast’s shaggy hand.  Drip, drip, drip.

Twenty feet away now. Cooper is scrambling backwards, moving his arms and legs while his head and eyes stubbornly keep themselves glued to the dead, white eyes of the beasts closing in on him.

Click, click, click. Movement catches his eye and he spots another shuffling out of the woods. It sways left and right, shaggy, old robes move like a pendulum beneath it’s shoulders. The head clicks out of tempo with the body, but again in perfect harmony with the two other Things.

Fight.  It’s all his mind tells him.  Survive.  Practice takes over and Cooper fires off a round without taking the time to aim. The bullet pierces the first beast through the chest. For the briefest of moments, he can see the forest behind it through the hole, then the shag coat covers it again. The shot is true.

Yet still It lumbers forward undeterred.  Doesn’t miss a beat in its horrible time keeping.

Click, Click, Click.  All he can hear is the sickening sound of their clicks and horrifying wheeze of their breath. Tears form in his eyes and despite the situation, all he can think about is calling out to his mom. To curl up in her lap like a child, sucking his thumb and hearing her soothe his muffled crying with the stroke of her hand on his forehead.

They stop, the three loom over him.   Six eyes the color of corpses regard him.  Their heads freeze in place and the clicking ceases. They inhale with a prolonged whine and hold. The forest is quiet again, save for the drips of that woman’s blood that fall from the Thing’s shaggy coat.

Cooper raises his arm in the same protective way. His chin starts to quiver and the tears no longer threaten to fall, they’re bursting from his eyes. “Don’t…” he whimpers in almost a whisper and grits his teeth.

It doesn’t answer at first – he thinks for a moment they’re honest to God going to stop – when It exhales a shaky and breathy laugh. It reaches down, grips Cooper by the jacket and lifts him up. He finds the piss in his bladder running down his leg, ruining a brand new pair of pants. He cries for his mother fruitlessly before all goes dark. Then he hears the deafening crack of his own demise.