Short Story: "The Monster of Deadwood"

This is a short story I wrote a couple of years back for class. When I say short, I mean short. It's almost creepypasta. I hope you enjoy it.

The Monster of Deadwood.

Night had cast its twilit mantle a few hours back, and Alex Krall already yearned for the sunrise. He had long before lost track of the time he had spent behind the wheel, but the clock on the dashboard –an old thing that didn’t let him forget his machine was but an antique- displayed the hour with flickering red digits: 22:32.
            He’d drive through the night, he could see, and that was a troubling thought; Alex didn’t want to be in this darkness much longer –it seemed it could swallow him; his pathetic headlights would not be able to repel it much longer.
            His eyelids had grown heavy, and it felt like he could fall sleep at the wheel, but several factors would keep this from happening. This path that divided the haunting forest of Deadwood didn’t seem to have ever known the comfort of concrete; rocks made a noisy bump out of every turn of the wheel, and scattered tree limbs threatened with accidents. Thus, protecting his car, afraid of having it break down in such an unfortunate location, Alex had to keep his speed under a limit that worked against his nerves.
            And also, there were the monsters to keep him awake.
            Never a fool or a mystic, Alex didn’t believe in the existence of the creatures legend said roamed Deadwood. These shadow beasts, it was said, grew as tall as the trees, and could eat entire cars without the need to chew with huge, sharp teeth.
            No, he wasn’t a believer of such rural farces, but his skepticism knew the boundaries of reason and, although Alex couldn’t believe in the creatures themselves, he couldn’t ignore the stories which birthed them. Dozens –maybe hundreds- had disappeared in Deadwood, only to reappear at its fringes, mauled and dismembered. Alex always wondered what terrible fortune could bring people to this place during the night. Who were these poor souls the legendary beasts tore apart? Surely not innocent passers-by like Alex, who in a cruel twist had been diverted to Deadwood upon discovering, ten miles back, that an unexpected roadblock had forced him to remap his journey.
Although he wasn’t familiarized with it, Alex knew of a community that had found a home near Deadwood. These people hid themselves from the world, and were therefore a fascinating mystery. All Alex knew about them was that the males wore silver rings on their right thumbs upon reaching manhood, probably as a remnant of an old tradition that, like the myths of monstrous beasts, refused to die. Perhaps it was these men who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in this road, surrounded by these dead, black trees, only to be eaten and crushed, becoming another victim of legend.
It could have been the darkness, or maybe his thoughtful trance, what made him hit the animal. What in one moment looked like a large shadow, in the next became an obstacle that made the entire car leap and land violently.
Startled, he thrust his foot to the brake, and the car came to an aggressive stop. The front left tire had hit something.
Suddenly, he couldn’t move.
The silence became disturbing. The purring of the engine and his wheezing breaths were the only things that momentarily ridded the night of its creeping stillness. Dust curled in his headlights; it looked as though a shadow would suddenly part it to reveal a violent terror.
His eyes turned to the dashboard. 23:00. The Final Hour.
Alex knew he had to get out and evaluate the damage, but fear didn’t allow him to, and every instant he remained stationary, waiting for whatever it was he had hit to reveal itself, was an instant he felt the darkness –and the monsters therein- crawling nearer. He could almost feel it as a vicious, conscious force bleeding through the windows-
A shrill scream that was too visceral to come from a common animal reached him. His foot slammed against the gas pedal and sped off, leaving the creature he had hit to die among the rocks.
There was a moment of horror in which he could feel his front left tire struggling to move, as though it had been damaged –or worse, as though whatever he had hit was still there, lodged in the mechanism. Little by little, however, the tire mercifully settled, returning to a position which allowed greater speed. Alex no longer thought in the wellbeing of his car, and drove as fast as the machine allowed him.
His heart beat in quick blasts. He could hear it, feel it, in his neck, in his ears. What had it been? It was too small for a deer, too solid for something smaller.
Transformed by fear, his disbelief started to fade. There was no wildlife in this place, he knew; maybe the Deadwood monsters did exist, and if such was the case, then Alex Krall was the first to run across one and escape with no pursuit.
The shrill scream returned to prove him wrong. He could hear it among the racket of rocks crashing against the underside of his car. It wasn’t his imagination. The monster was chasing him, preparing to crush and devour him.
Alex accelerated. The engine roared. But even this couldn’t hide the sound, the scream. It was still in pursuit of his prey, and Alex could go no faster. The sudden vision of a shadow outside his window made him cower away from it, ducking his head as though a monstrous limb would crash in to claim it. The scream returned and then-
. . . it was gone.
Several minutes passed him by before he finally realized that the monster had been left behind. Good luck next time, beast. You’ll have someone some night, but it won’t be me.
His escape filled him with a unique form of confidence in both himself and the power of the machine he controlled, but even then, there was still a hint of the fear which had frozen him.
Finally, thirty-five minutes later, Alex appeared in the highway that crossed a desert, unscathed if not for the remains of pain in his neck, and the memories his detour through the forest would imprint in him. Alex drove ten more miles before reaching the first sign of civilization: an old, desolate gas station.
He decided to pull over to get some sleep and wait until dawn. The fear hadn’t entirely removed the urge to rest, and he still had a long road ahead of him. Alex leaned back, covered his eyes with a cowboy hat, and slept.
* * *

It wasn’t dawn or the melody of birds that woke him six hours later, but his own determination. Finding himself in a safe place, with the sun rising on the East, Alex recognized a good time to examine and consider the damage in his front, left tire before continuing his journey.
A cold gust of wind cooled him when he opened the door and stretched his weary legs, seeing long shadows appear by the vegetation at the other side of the lone highway.
Then, he turned-
His heart froze, and his stomach grew heavy. There was blood on the tire. Caught between the axis and the tire, there were strips of flesh and fabric. Alex approached it, breathing quickly, as though his lungs were trying to draw the last breaths of sanity.
It wasn’t a monster, he confirmed. It wasn’t an animal.
The ruins of a twisted, broken right hand remained shaking behind the tire, a silver ring around the wrecked thumb.

2009 (C) Diego Valenzuela
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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