We came upon the house near sundown, and as the wind shifted, a fetid odor swept over us. The skies darkened, sinking us into gloom, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood as I listened for the sound of my mother’s voice. My thoughts had been occupied with the news of a sister I had never known, and I confess that I was a trifle slower than I should have been.
It is the distraction, I believe, which saved my life.
Had I been paying close attention to the dwelling we approached, I might have been blinded by the sudden flash of light that erupted from its few windows and its single, low door. As it was, I had glanced to the earth to see if I could discover some clue as to the origin of the stench, and my thoughts had lingered for a moment on freshly turned earth, a reminder of my sister’s hovel and her warning.
My comrades fell back, and I drew my pistols, dropping into a crouch as I brought the Colts up to bear. In the sharply fading light, a giant creature came loping towards us, a hideous howl tearing through the air.
The Akatuyians prepared to fire, but my fingers were already squeezing the triggers. I emptied all twelve chambers into the creature, each bullet striking the thing in its massive chest.
Only on the last round did it finally come to a halt, tumbling forward in a paroxysm of painful death. When the creature fell to the earth, the Akatuyians raced past me, their weapons at the ready as I stood up and joined them.
What we found was perhaps one of the most hideous creatures I have had the misfortune to look that.
It was a man, at one time, and whether by its own design or another’s, the head of a large wolf had been placed over the man’s and stitched to his bare chest and back. The man’s skin was filthy, calloused, and the most wretched I have seen.
When we entered his house, we found the remains of various animals, including humans, and a single photograph showed what he had been.
The wolf’s head, I’ll admit, was an improvement.
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