The Hawthorn Tree
Moonlight rolls over a dense and overgrown forest. The stars hover far above the deep green of the forest's canopy. A lack of light pollution allows millions to poke through the barrier of space and shine visible to the naked eye. This peaceful scene is interrupted by the echoing screech of a crow.
All at once the still canopy erupts in a wave of birds and hundreds of other winged creatures bursting through the branches into the sky. A plethora of predator and prey ignoring one another as they thrust their wings down climbing as high as they can in unison. Leaves drop like snowfall as they detach from their hosts; ripping them from the branches unintentionally as they ascend.
As the last of them trickle from the forest's depths an alien humming sound wafts in vibrating through the thick cool air as if from no discernable direction. “Vvvvvvvvvvrrrrrrrrrrr” Reaching even a small grassy field cradled by the forest with a large crescent where the treeline dares not reach beyond. Except for one.
At the very peak of the crescent an ancient hawthorn tree stands tall and dead with hint of a deep, dark, hypnotic purple. A hue just barely visible but still prominent in its otherwise dark earthy coloration. Long needle like thorns wrap it's thick trunk and all along it’s barren branches. The aged tree’s tremendous size is only supported by gnarled roots threaded in and out of the ground below like serpents.
The ominous hum continues as a gash positioned near the tree’s base starts to leak a matte purple substance the consistency of molasses. It travels; not down like gravity would intend, but swirling into itself before the Hawthorn Trees Trunk. The resulting sphere’s surface periodically lashes out with wispy flames, with seemingly no intention but to break the otherwise flawless surface.
The last of the hawthorn tree’s purple liquid slithers into the hovering orb. “Vvvvvvvvvvrrrrrrrrrrrr…….” the humming abruptly cuts off leaving the curious scene in momentary silence once again.
The sphere bursts. It's material disperses like vapour hissing into the air, and an infinitely black; glossy surfaced creature, drops precariously in it's place. Hitting the ground on all fours and thrusting forward with reverse jointed hind legs. Powerful feline-esc bounds carry it swiftly through the yellowing field. Leaving the tall grass to bow down as it’s forced to arc by the creatures airstream. Traveling further and further away from the forest and the hawthorn tree at it's edge.
Its silent progression continues now beyond the grassy field and into fertile farmland baring tall cornstalks that snap in it's wake. Unfazed, unrelenting, unstoppable, an aura of complete determination in whatever it's task may be. Speed unwavering, and nothing but the air around it disturbed. It appears almost as if hovering.
The creature now approaches a small village. Breaking the boundary of the farmland, it now streamlines past small wooden shacks packed together with logs and mud. Feet now producing faint thumping noises indicating contact with the patted down soil path. Yet not a soul is visible in the dark moonlit streets.
This ghost town theme continues as the entity progresses deeper into the village. Now passing increasingly elaborate houses; some even with stone walls and glass windows. The occasional flicker of candlelight is now sometimes visible from within the still houses. And the thumping is replaced by shuffling pebbles as the pressed dirt path transitions into a nice gravel walkway. Each of the creatures thrusts now sending dozens of the stones rattling in every direction.
For the first time, it verges off the straight line that made up it's course. Now heading down a divergent path, up a small hill spotted with the most exquisite houses as of yet. Containing multiple levels and doors with locks.
The destination is within sight now. Speed unwavering the entity's collision course with a manor at the hill's peak is now apparent. Yet instead of slamming into the exterior wall, it passes through the solid matter leaving only a dark scorch mark at the point of collision. Now inside the structure; it creature stops.
The long sprint was done. It's surely extensive momentum just gone. Leaving the mysterious being in stillness. On a rugged wooden floor. Positioned carefully in the center of a large room adorned with fine furniture and a large assortment of shelves supporting ornate vases and glass figures. The far wall continues down a short hallway. At its end, a room leaking the flicker of candle light.
The entity rises to its hind legs slowly. Rising into a sliver of moonlight sneaking in from a far window. Abruptly jerking both knee joints forward with a sickening wet “Shlick” sound. Spine duly cracking as each of its discs are forced into a new position. Finally punctuated by the neck snapping forward to let the head comfortably rest on the shoulders.
The glossy surface of it's skin reflects the moonlight; pleasantly illuminating the now humanoid entity clearly for the first time. No distinct indication of a gender, except an unfeminine physique. It's body tall and defined, but not particularly muscular. Not a seam or crevice can be glimpsed on it's smooth featureless face. Long gangly arms hang at both sides with humanistic hands that's fingertips end in curved points like a claws. The legs end in arched birdlike feet, with two toes extending into large talons and a third protruding out the back where the heel should be.
“Clack… Clack… “ The talons are lifted then replaced against the floor boards. As the creature takes it's time slowly walking towards the hall. Bringing with it the faint white hue of the moon unnaturally into the windowless corridor.
It's smooth deliberate strides carrie it leisurely past framed paintings of structures, nature, and one of a late middle aged man posing gallantly next to a large buck dangling by it’s bound legs from a tree.
Accompanied by abnegated doorways; some locked , others cracked open. Only revealing small peaks of each room's contents before vision is absorbed in darkness. Undeviating the dark entities attention.
Now it pauses once more. Ceasing outside the doorway emitting warm candlelight, dissipating the moonlights residual hold.
Inside the room, familiar clawed fingers slide through the small space between the doorway and the slightly ajar door. They clamp on, crushing indents where the fingers make contact while the wood responds by moaning in agony. Followed by a generic “CREEEEeeeeeee” sound as the creature pushes it aside and steps in; engulfing its form in the orange light.
The room is not overly interesting. It doesn't flaunt an aura of extravagant wealth as the rest of the house. Simple and cramped but not messy. Shade drawn over it's sole window. A nightstand holding an expiring candle with blemished copper base. Thin embossed wardrobe. And finally; a one person bed cradling a feather pillow, worn sheets, and several tattered blankets rising and falling rhythmically to the muffled snoring of someone beneath.
The entity steps to the bedside; a prophetic form towering over hauntingly. It glances down and tilts its head as though curious. Seeming to exude thick invisible waves of dismal pressure on the tiny room.
Suddenly the snoring breaches the blankets and an elderly man throws the blankets from the top half of his body. Rolling onto his back in a deep sleep. Showing his pudgy body, baby fat draped face with a stumpy round nose, and stained pajamas. A night cap bunched loosely on the pillow beside him. His every exhale discharging a phlegm riddled throaty snore and flecks of saliva. Explaining the liquid residue soaked into the sheet his face was just buried in.
The entity unfazed; deathly still, continues gazing intently at the man from smooth rigless face.
It lifts its right arm stately from it's side. Reaching hand and bedside candle, projecting an ominous shadow across the far wall. It hovers it's palm above the man's face; spreading its fingers, pressing their razor sharp tips slightly into the soft and malleable flesh along the edges. Causing dark red blood to trickle down his cheeks and add to the drool stains on his pillow.
The snoring cracks off mid breath, and his eyes snap open. Sleep crumbling at the corners and lids stretching wide open. The pupils grow large and deep. Succumbing to instinct and innate fear. Adjusting furiously, in an attempt to make sense of the world around him.
“Whaghhh. wha? Who the hell is....?!” exclaims the man fumbling. Following screams of terror upon deciding this was the correct response to the situation he's woken up to.
The creature removes his hand and bends over the man ( now scrambling to get out from under the covers.) physically trapping him in bed. It's face tears above the chin like thick leather with the nauseating wet sound of ripping flesh. The resulting slit presents a mouthlike orifice; the torn edges of which ressemble jagged teeth. That release a piercing, shrill, bludgeoning, and above all; unholy screech reminiscent of grinding metal. Breaching far beyond the room's walls and echoing throughout the villages dwellings.Carrying with it an adamant weight and thickness Stirring the residents within and provoking local dogs into vigorous barking
A warm liquid soaks through the man's blankets. He no longer struggles, but lyes visibly shaking with arms hopelessly shielding his face and neck. But not his eyes. Respectfully awaiting the completion of the horrifying screech.
The entity’s new mouth closes and melds together. Restoring the glossy surface once more to silence it's howling.
Now marinating in his own urine, the man manages to stutter “Wha… aah.. a..a..wha...What are you?.”
The creature takes it’s time; extending an arm then flicking the candle off of the night stand. Doing so overly casual as though mockingly. Sending it clattering to the floor with the flame tickling the edge of the beds sheat. Now replaces his arm at his side.
A few moments of heavy silence pass. The eyes of the creature; or rather where the eyes should be, fix staunchly on those of the man.
A deep, raspy voice that harmonizes with itself in a firm, demonically, powerful manner. Proclaims not from the creatures receded “mouth”; but from the surrounding atmosphere “ I SIMPLY AM... AS I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN... AND WILL NEVER CEASE TO BE.”
Punctuated by the entity plunging it's talon-esc fingers deep into the frail man's skull. His skin greying and cracking outward from the punctures. Spreading rapidly to all encumber the entirety of his skin. Eyes crust over with black soot and crumble into their sockets. The blankets lower as the man's meaty form shrivels to skeletal proportions. Gray crumbly skin wrapped tight around his bones like the park of a birch tree. It’s cracks grow deep, and begin to trickle thin streams of a dark gaseous compound rising to collect on the ceiling above.
Meanwhile the candle manages to ignite the sheets, rupturing the bed into black fire. Casting not light; but shadows depicting malevolent beings of all shapes and sizes across all the rooms surfaces. The flames cradle the dried up husk now laying in bed. lashing out and taking licks off of it’s surface. Unable to ignite the already dried up corpse.
The entity recedes into a shadow of it's own. Leaving its material body to meld into the shadows. As well as the scene; burning into ash.
The enferno within spreads unnaturally fast to rest of the structure. And Inside the manor, the violent glowing of uncontrolled fire seeps from within as the flames transition into their normal state from the black fire that had originally engulfed the bed.
From on the roof; a shadow can be seen growing in density and taking form of the entity. Limbs re-solidifying as a dark gaseous smoke swirls around and branches out of it's torso. Limbs formed and glossy surface restored the creature sprints and leaps toward another rooftop.
It lands on all fours; knee joints forced backwards and head cocked back into the feline profile the entity first took on its journey. Continuing on, it leaps ellegantly from rooftop to rooftop.
The silhouettes of curious residents appearing in windows or rushing up the path towards the blazing inferno to get a glimpse of the mayhem. Not one of which catches sight of the creatures nocturnal sprint. They see only a house feeding flames caused by what must have been a candle. Carelessly left unattended.
And the Dark entity leaves the village’s boundary and the dismay within. Disappearing into the night to the echoing cry of a distant crows warning.