The snow lay thick on the highlands and surrounding areas. The forecast had predicted a light scattering not this freak full on blizzard of the last two hours.
Hamish McDonald puffed on his pipe and watched his sheep come slowly over the hill. He waited a while expecting to see his sheepdog Betty come next, over exaggerating each jump as she did so to clear the drifts of deep snow. Every now and then he’d scour the area with his flash light.
He relit his pipe and drew long and deep as the moon slipped out from behind a huge grey tinged cloud brightening the crisp white landscape. Hamish cursed his two sons who’d promised he wouldn’t have to do this any longer. Both had come back late from the local inn which was over two miles away, although it was still classed as local to those who resided in these parts. They were totally inebriated and had passed out in the living room armchairs. So here Hamish was, rounding the sheep up on a cold wintry night, alone.
Still there was no sign of his faithful dog. Something was wrong. Perhaps Betty had gotten herself lost in the whiteout, it wouldn’t be the first time.
He decided he’d go take a look. She could have slipped and broken a leg or anything. He had to find her, she was his number one. Even his wife was behind her in the pecking order for his affections. He’d had her from a pup, and she was now in her thirteenth year. Hopefully not an unlucky one for her though.
He trudged towards the point where the last sheep had appeared, illuminating the way with his light, and pausing now and then to catch his breath and rub his burning legs. Hamish was no spring chicken anymore but had always thought himself as being as fit as a fiddle. The exertion of the climb against the prevailing wind had hit him hard. He inhaled deep, and exhaled a plume of what looked like his pipe smoke, but it was merely his breath in the cold air.
He reached into his jacket for his hip flask and chugged down large mouthfuls of the brandy to keep him warm. He continued upwards, then stopped at the sight of specks of red stained into the snow. The stains were fresh, and some had soaked and expanded into the white blanket all around him. He cast his eyes around for signs of the source. He saw nothing but other patches of claret scattered around. At first they seemed to be disappearing as the snow grew heavier, but the red soon crept back through.
A whimper or cry of pain carried on the wind or so he thought. Had it come from Betty? He wasn’t sure that he did hear anything above the wind. He reached the crest of the hill and about fifteen feet in front of him he could make out a dark shadow laid in the snow.
“Betty?” he shouted. “Betty? Hold on old girl. I’m coming.”
He heard more cries as he drew nearer and there was considerably more blood. More blood than would come from a solitary injured dog. That’s when he noticed several limbs of sheep. He couldn’t believe the way they’d been ripped to pieces. Half an eaten head here, a chewed leg over there. Entrails strewn around the hill crest and dragged through the snow leaving thick dark lines. In all his sixty years working these lands he’d never seen anything like it. His experience told him this wasn’t the work of wolves or bears but of something else. But what? Of that he had no idea. That’s when he saw the bloodied prints.
The moon stepped back behind another cloud as the snow fell thick and fast, swirling in the wind. Movement in the small copse of trees to his right caught his eye. He crouched to one knee, and struggled with shaking hands to unholster his twelve bore from its harness on his back and watched. He shone his torch along the tree line and upon seeing nothing he turned it off. He rose slowly and cautiously made his way over to where Betty lay. In those few moments it had taken him to reach her, Betty had slipped away. It was no surprise when he got up close. All four of her legs had been gnawed on and snapped like twigs and her rib cage was exposed with all of her innards on display. The top half of her head and been ripped open and upon closer inspection Hamish could see some marks covering it. Were they teeth marks? They didn’t look like the marks made by something with particularly sharp teeth but to cause the damage he saw now it must of come from something with a powerful jaw.
Tears welled in the old man’s eyes and almost instantly froze as they hit his cheeks.
“What in god’s name happened here?” said Hamish to himself. “What the hell did this to you? You poor old gal.”
He turned to face the trees as a loud crack echoed from that direction. He raised the twelve bore, waiting for whatever it was to show itself. Moments passed and nothing moved or came out of the woods. He didn’t want to use the torch again and give away his position to whoever or whatever was out there. Hamish knew he had to get down from the hill. He started to make his way back down, it was a mile back to the house from the foot of the hill. The wind was picking up and the temperature felt like it was dropping rapidly as if it wasn’t cold enough. He powered the flashlight again, it was much harder walking down hill.
Another crack startled him and he spun around to face the woods. Instead his torch lit up the face of a hideously deformed man. His eyes were sunk in his sockets and his skin looked decomposed. Flaps of it hung of his face and his top lip and half the bottom of his nose was missing. Blood was splattered all over his face and down the front of his checked shirt. He dropped the torch and his weapon as the man grabbed him around the throat. He was strong, much stronger than he was and probably stronger than his sons combined. He tried to scream but the pressure on his throat stifled him. Hamish raised his hands and desperately punched at the man’s face. His clenched fist sunk right in and the deformed man groaned but never released his vice-like grip. He picked Hamish up so his feet were two feet off the ground and drew him closer toward him. Hamish continued raining punches and his legs kicked out but to no avail. The attacker sunk his teeth into the top of Hamish’s head with a crunch. This time Hamish did scream but it only spurred his attacker on who threw him to the floor. Hamish landed face down in the snow and the man straddled him. Several more of the monsters overcame him with ease, each latching on to an arm or a leg with their rabid mouths. His screams echoed through the night as they tore open his stomach with their bare hands. Two of the creatures were on their knees with his intestines in their bloodied mouths in a game of tug of war. The things broke off and ambled toward the slope of the hill leaving Hamish’s body lifeless and a savaged mess. They had trouble walking in the deepening snow and even more so when they hit the decline. One by one they fell and rolled down the hill, stopping occasionally and getting back to their feet but they soon crashed back down again.
Hamish stirred with a groan and unsteadily got to his feet. He instinctively headed down the hill following his new family.
Scottie woke first, sweating in front of the roaring coal fire. He kicked his brother Dan’s shin who was sat in the armchair opposite him. He never stirred so Scottie stood up and kicked him again twice as hard. Dan jumped up.
“Wha ye dein, ye daft prick?!” roared Dan.
“Da’s nay back yet, let’s go find him,” said Scottie.
“How’d ye na like?” replied Dan.
“Cos he ain’t been in and ranted and raved at us yet as he?”
Dan grumbled and grabbed his thick overcoat from the peg by the back door.
“C’mon then let’s go,” said Dan.
Scottie got his duffle coat and deer stalker and followed his younger brother out into the wintry night.
They huddled in their coats and leant into the strong wind as they walked across the farmyard towards the hill where their father should be. Just as they passed the big barn they could hear a wailing and moaning.
“Ssshh. What’s that?” said Dan.
“What’s what?” replied Scottie.
“Nothing, just the wind I suppose.”
They set off but stopped at the sight of a man slumped by the style leading to the field that the hill was in.
“Da?” said Scottie running over to the figure.
He placed his hand on his shoulder and his dad turned to face him. His right eye black and sunken, the other hanging out on a slither of sinew. The rest of his face ravaged with teeth and nail marks. Scottie screamed and his father dug his hands into Scottie’s cheek and tore it off. Scottie’s hand instinctively went to his face and he bent over. His father grabbed his shoulder and the back of his head and bent down intent on biting him. Dan swung the shovel and connected with the side of his father’s face who crashed up against the wooden fence. He grabbed his brother and turned to run back to the house. Several more figures stood at the door to the farmhouse. The door was open. They were in the house.
“Ma! Ma! Wake up! Ma!” screamed the brothers. The things turned to face them at the sound of their shouts.
Their mother, Ada was asleep and had been for hours. She always went up early and rose early too. She heard the cries but still being half asleep was disorientated. She flicked on the bedside lamp. The bedroom door opened and in walked two men soaked, dirty, and covered in blood. The skin on their faces was grey, their eyes soulless and their mouths open ready to tear Ada apart. She reached under the bed and her hand grasped the loaded pump action shotgun. She blew the top of the head off the nearest man and hit the other one in the shoulder sending him sprawling up against the wardrobe. Pieces of lung and heart splattered on the black and white wedding photo hung on the wall. Ada screamed for her husband and her sons. The monster crashed to the floor and tried to grab the end of the bed with his good arm to haul himself up. His shoulder was missing and the top half of his chest exposed. Ada opened the drawer next to her bed and grabbed a couple of cartridges and proceeded to reload the weapon. The second man was up now and with one shot Ada sprayed his blood, brains and shards of skull up the bedroom wall.
Dan expertly crashed the shovel down on the first creature that attacked him. It landed quite comfortably in the snow but Dan was on him and with the edge of the shovel hacked at its neck. The shovel sliced through the skin and muscle and bounced back off the thing’s neck bone. He didn’t stop his frenzied attack even though the blood pumped and sprayed in his face. The shovel splintered and broke through the vertebrae with a crunch and decapitated the creature’s gruesome head. Scottie had grabbed a pitchfork that was propped up against a wall and stuck it so hard through one of them it had pinned him to the outside of the farmhouse. His brother replicated his previous manoeuvre on the stuck assailant while Scottie picked up an old pick axe handle and battered the skull of another. The final monster was just entering the doorway and Scottie ran and leapt with both his feet on the back of its knees bringing it down. Its shins split and the bones stuck out and Scottie rained blows down out it and caved its head in, then he took the stairs two at a time closely followed by Dan.
They reached their parent’s room and burst in. The first shot took the side of Scottie’s face off and he flung back through the doorway colliding with his brother. He was dead before he hit the floor. The force of the collision knocked Dan down the stairs. His desperate attempts to grab the hand railing failed and he landed with a snap breaking his neck. Ada reloaded the weapon and stepped out of the room crying uncontrollably. She checked the body at the top of the stairs realising it was her son. She wailed. What had she done? This wasn’t a monster it was her son. She saw the crumpled figure of her other son laid at the foot of the stairs and scurried down. He too was dead. She walked slowly through the hallway with the shotgun poised. Ready to take down another creature or whatever they were. She checked the downstairs of the house. Where was her husband? She returned to Dan’s twisted body, falling to her knees. Her hands stroked his face. What had happened here? Who were these monsters?
The phone, she had to ring the police or someone. She went to the table by the front door where the nearest phone was, picked up the receiver and held it to her ear. Nothing. The line was dead. The storm had knocked the phone lines and power out.
The door burst open smashing her in the back and pushing her face first into the wall. Her nose exploded with a sickening crack. She dropped the shotgun and slid to the tiled floor concussed. Hamish tripped on her fallen body, landing on top of her. Dazed she stirred, but could do little else but scream with pain as his teeth chomped into her skull, then the darkness consumed her.