With Doctor Winston behind bars, I slept as sound as a baby. Bird songs rang through the cold mountain air, giving warning of the change in seasons. Winter had indeed arrived, the blanket of snow upon the ground being clear proof. Now that the world was bathed in pure white powder, it didn’t seem so grim. A madman was locked up, the first snow had come, and I had a state-of-the-art lab all to myself.
Having now spent most of the day in the basement, familiarizing myself with the equipment and resources on hand, I headed upstairs to start a fire in the living space. Ash and dust poured out of the chimney as I adjusted the damper, causing me to cough and wheeze.
“Goodness, when was the last time he used this?”
Once it was cleaned out, I placed several logs inside and started a toasty fire. Bourbon in one hand, a book on the fundamental principles of engineering in the other, I let out a long, satisfied sigh.”
A glass and a half later, in combination with the soothing sounds of the crackling fire, made my eyes as heavy as lead. Before I knew it was happening, I fell asleep right in the chair. Now in between the two realms of sleep and conscious, an odd noise kept pulling me into the latter.
Huh? What was that? Hm, must have been nothing.
There it is again? Or is this a dream? Oh well…it seems to have stopped.
Now fully awake, I bolted out of the chair, my hands holding the book up to my face like a shield. Looking around the room, I tried to find the source of the commotion.
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
Fear began to overpower my reason. Thoughts of the Doctor having escaped to take revenge flooded my mind.
“D-doctor Winston? Is that you?”
There was no answer, only an eerie silence.
From the corner of my eye, a shadow passed by the window, or at least it looked like one did.
Calm down Ben, your just on edge from the insanity of the past few days. Take a deep breath and relax.
As the breath left my lungs, a creaking sound filled my ears. Straining, I could tell it was coming from outside. Someone, or something was walking on the deck.
I ran upstairs and grabbed my pistol. There was no way I was investigating any further without being properly armed.
Another shadow passed by the kitchen window, a big one at that.
Its just a bear Ben. A curious little black bear.
The creaking continued, circling around the house until it came to a stop right outside the front door. As the handle began to jiggle every muscle in my body tensed. With the pistol pointed at the door, I waited in anxious suspense for whatever was outside to make its way in only…it didn’t. The handle stopped shaking, the creaking went away, and no more shadows moved by the windows. After a half hour of tense house patrol, I decided to head upstairs and call it a night. Before hitting the hay, I set up a few basic tripwire traps for the sake of added peace of mind. The ones by the front and back door were simple noise makers. Should something trip the trap it will knock over the glass pitchers I have attached to the cord. The second one is a blinding trap. I rigged my flash bomb to detonate upon activation.
I also locked, bolted, and reinforced my bedroom door with an iron plate. Only with all these measures in place was I getting any sleep tonight. However, before I could close my eyes, before my head could even hit the pillow, the sound of creaking floorboards made a haunting return.
The sounds of cracked wood and shattered glass alerted me to the intrusion taking place downstairs, heavy footsteps now slamming against the floorboards. Just as I reached the stairwell, a blinding explosion of light filled the room, forcing me to cover my face with my hands.
As I cried out in pain, so did something else.
Its roar thundered in my eardrums, a wretched odor filling the room. Whatever it is, it’s certainly not human.
Crashing into furniture, sending bookshelves flying, the unidentified guest turned the first floor into a pile of rubble as it flailed about. At first, I could only make out a blurry shape, the effects of the flash bomb still affecting my sight. However, as the intruder left through the gaping hole it made in the wall, my sigh returned enough to get a clear look.
What I saw was not a man, nor a beast. What I saw was something in between.
Roaring and groaning as it made its way into the cold winter night, I stood on the porch with my mouth agape, staring at the gargantuan creature fleeing from before me.
Without a second thought, I made my way to the basement and sealed myself within, determined not to venture out until daylight.
W-what was that? I thought the monster was the doctor in disguise! There’s no way that was him unless…unless he escaped? No, that would be improbable. Besides, this thing was much, much bigger.
I wrestled with the reality of what occurred until once more the sound of birds alerted me to daylights arrival. Cautiously making my way upstairs, I unlocked the basement door and peered out into the living space. Everything was completely wrecked. All the furniture was destroyed, the flooring warped and cracked. Steam hissed out of the pipes that once lined the walls, their copper casings now bent and broken. Massive tracks led from inside the lab to the muddy trail outside. They looked like the ones I’ve spotted before, only larger. Hanging from one of the jagged edges of a broken pipe was a patch of fur, thick, smelly, brown fur.
Taking it inside, I put it under a microscope. I then examined one of the hairs laying on the floor of the doctors hidden room. To my surprise, they were an exact match. Looking into the room, it suddenly made sense why there was a giant metal cage sealed away.
The Doctor Winston keeping that beast locked within? There’s no way, it’s much too big. But then why is the exact same hair found on the floor? I think the only way I am going to understand this is if I go right to the source.
Before leaving the lab, I armed myself to the teeth. Not only did I take my automatic, and paralysis pistols with me, I also grabbed the rifle the Doctor kept mounted on the mantel. Ensuring it was loaded, I stuffed a handful of rounds into my pocket and made my way into town, flinching and wincing at every sound the woods could make. Crossing the bridge that led to the town square, I slung the rifle on my back and concealed the pistols under my coat.
I just pray they haven’t sent the doctor away yet. I have questions only he can answer.
I knocked on the door of the small jailhouse located in the center of the town. An irritated looking deputy answered from the other side. “Yeah, what is it?”
I cleared my throat and shouted, “I’m here to see Doctor Winston. That is, if he is still here.”
Pulling the looking slot back and peering out the hole, the deputy replied, “Yeah, he’s still here. Loony as a fool if you ask me. Why, whose asking?”
“I’m his apprentice, Benjamin Taylor. I was hoping to say goodbye before he is sent east.”
Looking me over, he asked, “What’s with the rifle?”
Looking out into the forest, I said, “Bears.”
Thinking it over, he closed the looking slot and began to unlock the door. “Alright kid, you got 5 minutes. But no funny business or I’m throwing you in with him, got it?”
I nodded to the deputy.
“And one more thing,” he stated gruffly. “You gotta leave yer rifle with me.”
Placing it on the table, I followed him into the secured section of the jailhouse. In the furthest cell, complete with a stockade, was Doctor Winston. With his hands and head locked into the device, he couldn’t yet see me.”
Pointing to his cell, the deputy said, “Make it quick. Ill be waiting in the lobby.”
Now alone with the doctor, I moved closer to the bars and said, “You look rather uncomfortable.”
Recognizing my voice, he began to chuckle. “I get the feeling I know why you’re here,” he remarked with a snide confidence.
Still laughing, he took in a deep breath and replied, “You met the monster, didn’t you?”
Crouching down to be level with his head, I asked, “What do you know about this beast?”
He tried to lift his head enough to make eye contact, it was tough, but he managed. Now looking at me with a stone-cold seriousness, he answered, “I know a great deal. More than anyone I suppose.”
The curiosity was overwhelming. “Tell me,” I pleaded, watching as a wicked grin formed across the doctor’s face.
“Very well my young apprentice. For you to understand, I’ll need to go back, way back, all the way back to a time before my arrival. You see, as the natives will tell you, this beast has been around for as long as people have lived here. Murals, cave paintings, and stories passed on through the generations all tell tales of this monster. They have their own explanations for how the beast came to be as told through magical, spiritual stories, but I have my own theory.”
Sitting on the wooden floor, wrapped around his every word, I asked, “What theory would that be?”
His smile grew wider. He was clearly enjoying this. “That the beast was never created. Rather than a cursed being turned mad by their crimes, I believe the creature is simply a left-over relic from another age. The last of its kind, an endling.”
I nodded along as he spoke. His theory made sense, but a true man of science doesn’t settle for hearsay. “And what evidence could you present to justify your claim?”
Snickering, Doctor Winston replied, “Excellent question Mister Taylor. You always were a studious one. Now the, allow me to ask you a question of my own. When you were rifling through my belongings the other day, did you happen to find my journal?”
I shook my head, “No, all I found was the note sent to you from Mister Dupont.”
“I see. Well, should you wish the know all that I do about this beast, go into my room and peel back the rug in the far-right corner near the window. Underneath is a secret compartment containing my journal. Within that book is ten years of research. Find it and read every last word.”
“Wait, why are you helping me doctor? I thought you would be livid after all I had done.”
Doctor Winston’s face grew sullen, his eyes losing their mad twinkle. “What good would rage do me now? Besides, the truth is I’ve hit a wall with this pursuit. All my attempts to capture the beast have failed.”
“So that cage in the basement? That was designed to restrain the monster?”
He tried to shake his head, but the stock made it impossible. “Yes, the metal is a unique alloy designed to hold up against even the most enraged gorilla. It would seem the creature is far stronger than anticipated. I have captures it several times and each time it escaped.”
“I don’t understand. Why try to capture it?”
“I’m surprised to hear you ask such a thing, Mister Taylor. As if one would need further reason than what already exists. That being said, how much of Mister Dupont’s deal with me are you aware of? I assume you are up to speed given Miss Diana’s involvement.”
“I know everything,” I replied. “The murders, the elixir, everything.”
“Good, that will make this easy to understand. You are aware that the mixture’s potency is dependent on the age of the creature its derived from, yes? Well, imagine how powerful one could make it using an animal that’s thousands of years old.”
Just as I was going to inquire further, the deputy returned. “Alright, times up.” Grabbing hold of my arm, he pulled me back and away from the doctor’s cell.
“Find my journal,” he shouted, his voice echoing off the musty stone walls. “Find it, and finish what I could not!”
Throwing me and my rifle back outside, the deputy slammed the door shut and shouted, “Now beat it!”
Searching through the snow, I located the stock of the gun. Wiping the freezing powder off, I slung it over my shoulder and made my way back to the lab. I was glad for the snow. It revealed the nature of everything that stepped upon its surface. All along the way, I kept my eyes open for monster tracks. After the doctor’s admission of its existence, I felt both a dread and a relief. Dread that such a thing exists, but relief to finally know the truth.
Back at the lab, I stepped through the busted entrance and rushed into the doctor’s room. Peeling back the carpet, a loose floorboard came into view. Using my nails, I pried it up and found the hidden journal.
Here’s the book, now to see what it says.
The first page was unnerving. A full-scale sketch of the beast stretched from top to bottom. Much like the cave art I stumbled upon a while back, the being had long, slender arms that ended in three claws and a thumb-like appendage. Furry, trunk-like legs ended in preposterously large feet, a jagged nail jutting from each of its toe’s. The face was the most unsettling aspect. It reminded me of a face I had seen when visiting the circus as a young boy. In a cramped cage, a deformed child was kept on display. Labeled as a freak, his morphed facial features drew jeers from the crowd. Once I had made my way to the front, I looked on with pity at the unfortunate soul.
After drinking in its hideous from, I turned the page. Titled Forest Walker, I began to read the doctors notes.
March 3rd, 1880
Having successfully lobbied to head up the remote lab in Pigeon Forge, I find the structure to be lacking. I understand that its isolated position means forgoing some of the amenities of home, however I was not prepared for such minimalist provisions. Perhaps focusing on my commission form the committee will help take my mind of things.
March 25th, 1880
The cataloging of the local flora and fauna continues to run smoothly. Aside from a few bear encounters there is little to be concerned of when traversing through the woods. The locals are very kind if not a bit simple minded. Rather than engage in meaningful conversation they spend their days talking about monsters strutting about through the forest.
June 17th, 1880
Not that I believe such things but, well, I may have stumbled upon something incredible. While first dismissing their claims as hooey, there may be truth to the local monster legend after all! Further investigation is needed but if I’m right I may be able to save my life’s work after all!
February 29th, 1881
It’s been eight months without results. I’m biggening to doubt once again. Unusual tracks cover these hills but without tangible proof no backer worth their salt would bother funding my research. This was only supposed to last a year and the committee is threatening to cut the cord. Unless I can make a breakthrough by March, I’m out of luck…
January 10th, 1882
It has been much too long since I logged another entry. So much has happened since my last update. The beast is real! Not only have I seen it with my own eyes, but I even managed to obtain a lock of its hair! This is being sent of to the labs in New York post haste!
June 17th, 1882
A rich baron has begun to construct a villa atop one of the hills. All this added activity has decreased the number of monster sightings. It must not like the noise. Lab results confirm the fur was of unknown origin. Most of my time has gone toward fine tweaking the formula.
October 4th, 1882
A breakthrough has been made. The elixir not only works, it works better than I could have ever dreamed! Facial wrinkles, eye bags, even loose teeth have all become taught and firm. The effects only last a short while but its progress! On another note, something came by the lab last night. I could hear it crawling about on the deck. Perhaps it was a raccoon…
April 9th, 1882
Where to begin. I have caught the beast. After several attempts and countless containment strategies I can truthfully say I got it. A more horrid looking thing it couldn’t be. After administering a sedative, I extracted a large syringe of spinal fluid. Let’s see if this works!
January 20th, 1883
Its over. The beast escaped and with it my credibility. The science committee cut my funding. I tried to explain the beast, but they shut me down. My license revoked, my reputation ruined, I have nothing left. Nothing but a lab and a pointless dream. They said as long as I stay silent, I can remain here, quietly cataloging whatever seems to be of scientific value. What other choice do I have?
July 13th, 1884
There I was, collecting wormwood for an experiment when I cross paths with Mister Dupont, the lord of the newly built manor. He invited me for dinner, having apparently heard of my work through local channels. After a few glasses of whiskey, I admitted the sad state of my career. To my surprise, he wished to learn more! After a brief demonstration of the invigoration serum, he offered to fund the project himself! I still don’t think he bought the Forest Walker story, but as long as I get results, he doesn’t seem to care.
The rest of the journal was an increasingly unhinged documentation of all his attempts to recapture the monster. At the very end of the book was in depth instructions on how to bait it out of hiding. Putting the journal down, I headed outside.
Looks like I have some shopping to do.ns18.104.22.168da2