Logan spotted a hawk circling up ahead as he drove down the two-lane highway on the edge of town that would take him as close as one could get to the fenced-off area by car.
Hawks made him nervous–they didn’t always circle because something was dead. Sometimes, he knew, they circled because something was going to die.
As it turned out, in this case it happened to be the former–a deer so badly mangled it had to have been hit by a semi, he surmised when curiosity demanded he pull over and take a look. A car simply couldn’t have inflicted that much damage upon the animal unless it had been going well over eighty miles per hour. Had that been the case, that vehicle wouldn’t have left under its own power and its driver would most likely be dead.
He supposed it could have been towed, but the deer carcass seemed fresh and undisturbed by scavengers. A car almost certainly would’ve spun off into the ditch on either side of the relatively narrow highway, and yet there were no skid marks; no wrecker tracks–something had plowed through it and kept on going full speed ahead.
He filed this information away in the back his mind and got back on the road. After less than three minutes, he arrived at the roadside rest stop and picnic area that Nate had told him about.
Tall clusters of weeds had sprouted up through dusty gravel and broken glass, winding themselves around long-dormant circus animal spring riders with cracked and peeling paint. The swing set was missing one swing, and the graffiti-covered tornado slide was leaning to one side due to a rusted and collapsing support pole. There was a stone picnic table with an old mounted grill beside it that had seen far better days.
Families had once gathered there for food, fellowship and play, but it was readily apparent that they did so no longer. It was now the kind of place where bad people came to do bad things.
The entrances to the hiking trails on the park’s edge were blocked by wooden A-frame barricades whose orange stripes had long since faded to yellow after years of exposure to the elements. Dense, thorny brush around the barricades prevented Logan from going around them, so he simply climbed over one and headed down the trail into the woods.
He’d been walking for some time along the uneven, washed-out trail when he caught a glimpse of movement in the trees.
He froze, listening and watching. Nothing. He kept going, and the clearing where the fence stood came into view. There was a rusted metal sign hanging on it, white with red letters, that read “GOVERNMENT PROPERTY: NO TRESPASSING.” There had once been more words beneath those, but they’d long since been spray-painted over.
The fence itself was partially covered in dead ivy that looked almost as if it had been sprayed with Roundup. It was late spring, and everything around the fence was green and flourishing–but there were no leaves on the trees behind it. Some of the trees had fallen, creating a giant beaver’s damn of mess, all bound together by decades of overgrowth.
Logan had no idea what that meant, if anything, but he did know it was weird.
He removed the 8-inch bolt cutters he was carrying in his pocket and set to work cutting an entry hole through the fence. He’d clipped through about nine of its rusty links when something knocked him to the ground.
His heart hammering in his chest, he scrambled to his feet and looked all around, trying to figure out what had hit him.
He didn’t have to look too long–a child, a boy of seven or eight, perhaps, was crawling towards him on all fours. The kid was covered in red mud and was snarling and baring his teeth.
It was ludicrous, he knew, but for reasons he couldn’t put his finger on, Logan was afraid of this child.
“Hey,” he said, easing away, “it’s okay, I’m not gonna hurt you, kid.”
The boy lunged at him, unleashing an unholy, throat-ripping scream as he did so.
Logan sidestepped the attack and the boy slammed into the fence like a volleyball hitting a net and fell to the ground, landing on his back. He was up and moving far sooner than Logan had anticipated, though, and this time the lunge didn’t miss.
The kid’s momentum knocked him a good five feet backwards, and the impact momentarily took his breath away.
The boy was straddling his chest now, staring down at him with eyes that didn’t seem quite human–they looked like those of a rabid animal. Logan was reminded of a guy he’d once scuffled with who was totally gone on angel dust–he’d possessed similarly extraordinary strength, but of course this was a child he was dealing with, here.
His assailant’s hot breath smelled of blood and rot, and Logan could see chunks of what appeared to be meat and fur stuck between his teeth as he opened his mouth wide.
He seized the kid’s neck with both hands and wrenched him loose; threw him against a tree as if he were a ventriloquist’s dummy.
Except an evil one, like on Twilight Zone. Or Chucky. Yeah, definitely more like Chucky.
The little demon-child wasn’t slowed at all–he was relentless, attacking with even more strength and ferocity than the PCP guy. As soon as he fell to the ground after hitting the tree, he popped back up like a stepped-on rake and kept coming. It was at that moment that Logan made the split-second decision to shoot him.
It all seemed to happen in slow motion–the drawing of the gun from its holster in his jacket, the kid charging towards him..,
The bullet went completely through the child’s head, leaving one hell of a smashed cherry pie of an exit wound in the back of his skull.
Not convinced the child was dead, or even could be killed, Logan kept his weapon drawn as he crept forward to check.
The smell of gun smoke tickled his nostrils as he stood over the tiny, motionless corpse. Kid was dead, alright.
“Well shit,” he said, holstering his gun. “What the hell am I going to do now?”