In my nightmare, a shadow creature with spider-like arms, razor teeth, and mucous oozing from its ferocious jaw, at least six-feet tall, smells like excrement and rotten guts. For its size, it was fast, like a cockroach fleeing light. I needed to make it until dawn, that daylight, somehow, would save me from the monster. But could I last that long?
I call it Ghouli. A fearsome beast that feeds on flesh.
When I first saw it, I was in a primeval forest. The Ghouli was gnawing at the bone of something large… and vaguely human, working to extract every last bit of sinewy meat, like it was famished. I froze, instinctively. A chill down my spine. Primal fear, like I’ve never experienced. (There are many threats to us in daily life, but being eaten isn’t one of them.) Slowly… very slowly… I backed away, when—
The snapping twig under-foot alerted the creature immediately—I froze again, as it turned, fully alert. Its eyesight must be pretty poor because it looked right at me, but didn’t react. I couldn’t breath. Carefully, quietly, it began to creep in my direction, senses heightened. I was exposed and vulnerable. My heart roaring in my chest, legs dying to run! But it must not have seen me, or it would have already pounced. My only hope: act invisible, and do not move.
As it neared, I trembled. In that long, drawn-out moment, which felt like an eternity, several thoughts flashed at once: What was this thing? What was I doing here? Where was I going?
My feet frozen, it continued moving closer, seemingly unaware of my presence right in front of him. (Him? Her? It?) But if it couldn’t see me, it sure was heading in the right direction. In moments, it would be on me. The putrid smell grew worse, making me want to gag. I had to move.
With everything I had, I turned and ran! Ran for my life. Feet barely touching ground—
The beast right on me— fast AF! Breathing down my neck!—
I cornered a few trees, ducking and dodging branches whipping my face—
The beast struggled to keep up. It was good in the straight, but couldn’t maneuver so well—
I didn’t know where I was going, just trying to distance myself from it. I came upon a deep ravine with a river below, blocking my path. I ran along it and dove back into the woods. The beast was losing ground, and maybe my trail. I charged ahead, exploding into a clearing. Surrounded on three sides by a wall of rock. In the center of the clearing, an enormous mound of discarded bones, picked clean. Rotting.
Behind me, the sound of the beast crashing through the woods. Closer and closer…
No time to act, I dove into the bone pile, burrowing into it, the only chance to get out of sight. Lungs heaving. I tried to calm down as the beast burst into the clearing and stopped.
Did it lose track of me?
Absolutely still, I watched as it paced the area, not sure which way to go. It called out in a primal, unsettling shriek, as if announcing defeat. I stayed rooted, afraid to move an inch. The beast called out again, a sense of futility in its godawful wail. Strangely, this gave me hope. Maybe it was admitting defeat and would soon head away.
But then I noticed something that crushed my soul. As the beast cried out again, I saw movement around the perimeter of the clearing. Dark, obscure shapes on the ground began to stir, slowly waking and rising to their feet.
Other beasts, just like Ghouli. A dozen, at least. Surrounding me. An encampment of six-armed creatures, drooling, with fangs. The original one gestured toward the bone heap in which I hid—or thought I had. The others turned, as one, in my direction. Knowing. Hungry. Howling. So much awful howling, it drowned out my thoughts! Then they began to make their way closer. If this was a dream, it was time to wake up. This was a dream. It had to be a dream…
Because you don’t die in your dreams, right?
The monsters moved closer, there was no escaping this time—
There was no way out.