A thunk rang throughout the forest as the arrow pierced the rabbit’s skull. A young man in his late teens emerges from within the mess of green and brown, bow in hand. Using his survival knife, he cuts some rope that he brought with him and uses it to tie up the rabbit before slinging it over his shoulder.
“This’ll be fine for now.” He says to himself.
He hadn’t gone too far into the forest because there wasn’t really a need, so home was only a short walk away. But in the meantime, he took in the scenery. Despite seeing the forest everyday, he never got tired of it. The sounds of flowing water, chirping birds, and distant rustling; the green leaves; the cool, fresh air; all were enjoyed while being gently shielded from the sun by the old, tall trees.
When straight lines entered his vision, he knew he was nearly home.
Johann’s home, Flecht, was a tiny village with a population of about one hundred. It was nestled in between the mountains and covered by vast, lush forest. Hidden by nature, it had remained untouched and isolated from the rest of the world.
With a bow and a dead rabbit slung over his shoulder, Johann sauntered from the forest back into town before being stopped by a young man carrying some water in buckets.
“Already out this early, huh?” he said.
His name was John. He was pretty ordinary, but he was somehow friends with Johann, the second least ordinary person in the village.
“Has your dad gotten any better?” John asked.
“Nope. The doctor’s looking at him right now, though. He might be able to help somehow.”
“I see.” He then remembered something. "Oh, and my dad still wants those hides. How much wool would make it a fair trade?"
"Hmm... Probably about-"
“John!” Their conversation had been interrupted by John’s little sister, a cute six year old girl named Susie.
She ran up to John like a puppy. “Hurry up! You’d said you’d play with me after you were done!”
“Haha! Yeah, well, I need to get going.” He regripped the water buckets and went on his way with Susie in tow.
As Johann made his way home, he was kindly greeted by those he met along the way with genuine smiles. Everyone in the village knew each other, after all. They were all dressed similarly in plain, old-fashioned clothes and dutifully carrying out their daily tasks.
Of course, there was always plenty of work to do. Each family had a garden of a few hundred square feet as well as several animals like cows, chickens, horses, or sheep.
All the houses in Flecht had similar designs. They were all quite large and built with plenty of space. White walls and brick chimneys were also a staple. These houses were difficult to tell apart, but Johann’s stood out like a black sheep. Johann’s house was a cabin made almost entirely from logs rather than planks, and the outside was unpainted leaving the natural color exposed.
Such an audacious house would be expected to ostracize them, but it was somehow acceptable. Nevertheless, this was the only home known to Johann, and he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Leaving his bow at the door, he walked inside and went straight to the room and the end of the hall after leaving the rabbit in the kitchen. On the large bed in the middle of the room, a man who looked far worse than he should was sleeping with a doctor by his side.
“I’m back.” Johann said. “How’s he doing?”
“He’s sleeping right now.” the doctor responded. “I administered some medicine, but his illness is terminal. He’ll be dead within the month.”
“He’ll probably be up soon. Make sure he eats.”
“Well, I’ll be going now.”
Johann walked the doctor to the door. “Thank you for all the help.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more.”
“It’s fine. You did plenty.”
The doctor left, leaving Johann alone to prepare breakfast.
He heard a hoarse cry from the end of the hall. “Johann!”
Entering his father’s room, he saw how bad his father was really doing. Grey skin, sunken eyes, and his body had so little fat you could see all the bones.
“There you are,” He coughed up, “The doctor was here, right? What did he say?”
Johann hesitated. “He said that you’ll be dead within a month.”
“A month, huh?” He seemed to have taken it pretty well.
“Yeah, give me a minute, I’m gonna make breakfast.”
“Wait!” Johann’s arm was grabbed with a force greater than his father should’ve been capable of. “Don’t go yet. Before I die, I need to tell you something.”
Johann stopped and looked at his dad. “What is it?”
Before he could finish, several screams rang out from outside accompanied by loud thuds, bangs, and crashes.
Johann looked out the window to see villagers running past their house towards higher ground. “What the hell!?” He shook off his father and ran out.
Johann tore open the door to see what could only be described as a monster. Despite its human shape, it couldn’t be considered one at all. Its size was far larger than a normal human, it was covered in grey, decayed skin, it crawled on its hands and legs like a crab, and had a massive, unhinged jaw with teeth like stalagmites. There were men trying to fend it off with pitchforks, shovels, and hoes, but they were losing and had begun to flee.
As the villagers attempted to widen the distance between them and the beast, one person got left behind.
“H-Help!” Susie screamed as became cornered against a building, the monster only a few yards away.
Johann, seeing he was the closest one, began running. The monster wasn’t too far, so sprinting at full speed, he just might be able to make it in time.
Just a few feet away from Susie, it was getting ready to tear into its prey by opening its mouth farther than was natural, but just in time, Johann dashed in front of Susie and shoved his survival knife into the beast’s eye. It moaned in pain and staggered, leaving Johann with just enough time to scoop up Susie and run. The other villages had escaped to higher ground, so he made his way there too. As he ran by his own house, the monster not far behind, he remembered that his father was still there.
But before he could go retrieve his father, he saw something truly bizarre.
The door of the cabin burst open, and standing there was Johann’s father wielding a longsword. Even stranger, the monster lost all interest in Johann and Susie as soon as it saw Johann’s father, as if sensing a greater power.
Johann’s father, looking more vigorous than he had in years, stepped out and faced the beast as Johann and Susie watched.
After pausing, the monster lunged at Johann’s father, and with one clean slice and a bright flash, its neck had been severed and it fell to the ground in a heap.
Johann, still in shock, only stared with his mouth open. Was this really the same man?
Those questions had to wait because not long after, Johann’s father collapsed.