's 2013 Horror Write-off:

"They Called Her the Wild One"

Submitted by Qubeley

They called her Wild One, and in hindsight, that is exactly what first drew me to her. I was a wretched child, unruly, a savage if there ever was one. I couldn’t help but to come home covered in dirt, bruises, and torn clothes. My mother had always told me to be good until father returned, but I didn’t listen. I fought the other children and was a menace to every gardener within walking distance. I killed field mice and rats and squirrels and the occasional possum, and laid their corpses out on the doorsteps of neighbors I despised. Sometimes I would leave them to rot in the field and watch the ants and centipedes and scavengers have their gruesome way. Sometimes, if I was very still, and very lucky, a hawk would land and pick at the carcass, and I would try to kill it, too, to see what larger predator would come to eat that creature. Usually they would just fly away.

When my father did return, I tried to be on my best behavior, but that wasn’t always enough. But his long absences made him forget my transgressions from when he was last with us, and I had but a week to remind him. Largely, my parents knew very little of my actual exploits, and as I grew older, I learned to present as if I had grown out of them. I took pains to keep my clothes from ripping, and never fought with any schoolboy who would tell anyone about it. I went out with my mother to the few events our town had, and spoke politely to the same neighbors who were so puzzled when their flock returned with one less sheep than before. I was truly a wild child, as my mother used to say.

I heard about her through gossip, a pleasure I found most delightful after I began to put on a front of civility. It seemed everyone had a secret they desperately wanted to tell. The Morgan family’s reclusive daughter had been seen stealing apples from the Yates family’s orchard. She had been such a pleasant girl when she was just a bit younger than I, or so said my mother. But she became more and more like the boy I used to be, or rather, the boy I still was when no-one was looking.

She stopped talking and rarely responded to language, nor did she bathe, and it was rumored she never slept.

She interested me, so I endeavored to remember her name. From the younger boys, however, I learned a much more suitable one. Wild One, she was. Throughout the following weeks I learned more and more of her exploits. Like me, she seemed to have a secret life, known only in the schoolboys’ legends. Occasionally she was careless and those in the upper echelons of society caught wind of her curiosities, like the incident in the orchard, or when her family found her bedroom to be home to dozens of spiders.

Eventually, I had no choice but to investigate. Her careless meddling was drawing attention to the weird doings that occurred at night, and anyone who dared to explore these events further risked my discovery. I was jealous. From the children I coaxed rumors and half-truths in exchange for sweets.

Local legend described her living in the abandoned cabin, locked in her room forever, or engaged in terrible rituals in the woods whenever the moon was out. Some said she was possessed, and crawled out from the caverns of the earth at dawn to feign her humanity. Others said she was a witch, and made blood offerings for the Prince of Hell. And others yet said she could fly, ate doves, and drove God-fearing men to the Devil. I was spellbound by these tales, and pursued each one as if they weren’t but mere delusions.

Once, in the cold autumn, I thought I saw her while I waited for a hawk or eagle to eat the rabbits I had killed and arranged on the ground. She wore a red shawl and scarf that hid the bottom half of her face. Her eyes were a dastardly blue, and I was drawn to them like crystals. Entranced, I followed her slowly, until she disappeared into the trees. By the time I had returned, the carcasses I had set out were gone. But there were hastily and poorly-hidden footprints leading away from the site. She had tricked me. I laughed as loudly as I dared, and felt I had fallen in love. I doubled my efforts to find her, so that I could face the part of me that bred such weakness.
When the snow began to fall, I found my way more easily. Her footprints were more visible, and harder to conceal. I saw her again, a limp cat’s body in one fist, clumps of fur in the other. She did not notice me, and I followed her into the forest. The moon gave scant light, and I nearly lost her trail on several occasions. But after hours of hiking, I found myself in front of some sort of rocky outcropping, and fancied I’d seen her sitting not twenty paces away. Suddenly the moon aligned with a hole in the treetops, and the place was bathed in light. It was clear my eyes had deceived me. No-one was there but me and the Wild One’s abruptly-ceasing trail.

I came to that spot many times in the following month, and began to lay out the corpses of my kills on a large boulder in the center of the area. Sometimes I left to attend to business in town, and come back to find dried blood and footprints leading no-where. I realize now that I only tracked her this far that night because she allowed me to. But she has been a fool for doing so.

On the final night, I killed a goat, and laid it out for her, like an offering for a goddess. I had honed my talents for stealth throughout the month prior, and left the area only to come back immediately through a different route, taking care to leave no trail and to make but little noise. I had tried this before, but always found myself to be too late. This time, however, I saw her, barefoot and eating. I had never known exactly what she did with my offerings, but had suspected as much. I drew my knife, but it scraped against its sheath. I had been careless, and knew I was to lose my only chance at contact with the divine. She looked over her shoulder and saw me, gazed long and deeply with her terrible, wonderful eyes. But she did not flee.
“Wild One,” I said, approaching her, “my love, I want only to see you closer. You fascinate me. You are an obsession. Allow me to see you…”
I slowly made my way to the altar.
“To touch you…”

I carefully pulled away the shawl and scarf and saw her bare face. It was dirty, delicate, and boyish. Her hair was short and half comprised straw and debris. She reminded me of my youth.

“To kill you…”

I brushed my hand against the skin of her face—cold, but not without life. She did not protest, perhaps even invited me closer to her body’s frigid warmth. I took the knife—but it was too late. Her left hand squeezed my wrist till the blade fell to the ground, and her right did the same with my throat. She smiled, then grinned, then opened her mouth to kiss me, I fancied, but instead she put her lips to my ear.

“I am not like your field mice or livestock, Gordon Hawthorne,” she said, and I shuddered at the realization that she could speak. “Nor am I like you. You should have taken warning from the children. You should have grown into a real civilized man, instead of this adultery with savagery.”

She opened her mouth wider, and wider, and yet wider, until I thought surely her jaw must break. Rows and rows of teeth stared back at me. I tried to scream, but her fist closed on my windpipe. As she revealed herself to me, I wondered which form she would take, which legend would have more truth. The witch? The devil? The enchantress? Or did something entirely more frightening live inside this flesh?