's 2020 Horror Write-off:

Os Olhos da Cuca

Submitted by Arthur Penteado (email)

The mother's glowing green eyes observe the hunters approaching her cabin, with the trained patience of a cold-blooded predator. Submerged two feet below the surface, she counts 5 men treading through the swamp at this moment, wielding rifles, pistols and hunting knives. She has been observing them for 20 minutes. She will strike within 15.

It is the third group this month to encroach on her territory, and she knows it won't be the last. The humans from the colony outside of the woods are getting bolder, more daring, more desperate. She still bears scars of some of these encounters. A chipped tail, scars, a missing limb - nothing too important, merely reminders of mistakes she won't make again.

The mother has millions of years worth of mistakes and learnings to rely on, and in a time long gone by, patience was the key to her success as a hunter. But she is not hunting. She is defending.

There are small, defenseless cubs currently asleep in her cabin, and thus the mother must defend them. She feels no hunger or fear at this moment.

There was a time where her life consisted of surviving and raising offspring, and in that time, she had successfully brooded in many nesting grounds, each with two to twenty hatchlings that would soon grow up to become hundreds of adults, whose genes would live on in the current generations of her kind.
But the mother cannot recognize them as her offspring. Though she's tried, she cannot sire new ones. Time has warped her into something no living being would recognize as one of their own. But her maternal and protective instincts have never diminished. All hatchlings in the woods are under her protection.

In 10 minutes, she has a better view of the hunters. They walk in slow, careful steps, clutching their firearms. She knows their kind. She's lived long enough to see the small, scurrying vermin living in the shadow of the dinosaurs rise to take their place, and one group in particular begin calling themselves the dominant species on the planet. The mother knows of their gestures, their language, and their cruelty. And she knows of their taste as well.

For her protection only extends to the young until they are not young anymore. Then, they become food. For her, and the other offspring under her protection. Such is the way she's always lived. It's natural for her.
She does not understand why would it not be natural for other beings. She does not understand why the same methods she's used to raise her offspring millions of years ago, when she could still sire them, do not work for the offspring of different species.

And she does not understand why is it that the two human cubs she's been looking after for two weeks do not want to eat what she brings for dinner.

It hasn't stopped her from trying. Ever since she found the two human children lost in the woods, she's done everything she could to look after them. Lately, she's put to practice a habit of preparing her meals, and while it's taken a while to get the hang of it, she's certain she's got it right by now.
So why is it that, last night, the cubs once again refused to eat the meal she's prepared? She made sure to spice up the roasted owl with carrots and frog innards, and still they turned their noses away. Why won't the boy let her take care of his bruised knee? Why is the girl always trying to find a way for them to escape?

Why do they keep crying and asking to go back to mother? But mother is mother! Being mother is all she knows! Why is it that they don't see her as mother? What is she doing wrong?

She does not know. But she knows it's her duty to look after them, just as she does for all the young in the woods. Eventually, she'll get the cubs to eat, and they'll be happy with their bellies full, just like her young used to be. They were also pretty stubborn with their food.
But that will have to wait. There are predators coming.

It's 5 minutes until she attacks. The hunters are close enough for her to pick out their scent. She analyzes their size, strength, weaponry, how they walk, and how prepared they are. One of them leads the pack, with a pistol in one hand and a machete on the other, and suicidal confidence stamped on his grin.
The other men of the mission talk between themselves, and to the side of the leader, walks a lone, quiet man. He's smaller, more timid, clumsily wielding a rifle. His smell is almost familiar.

It is similar to the smell of the young sleeping in her cabin. He must be a couple of years older. She hesitates, but keeps watching, patiently.

It's been 5 minutes. The men have found the cabin.

The younger one with a familiar scent dashes ahead. He may not have a sharp sense of smell like the mother does, but he knows that something is wrong. His stomach turns, and panic takes control of his actions. His familiar smell gave him a few more seconds than the others.

The others didn't see her coming.

Despite her size, she moves too fast for them to react. She has the advantage of her surroundings, she knows where they are fragile, and she knows how to take them down easily. If she was hunting, she would take her time. She would drag them below the water and let them drown, with little effort on her end. But she values the well-being of the cubs too much to let the hunters remain a threat. She has to be quick.

They are taken one by one as they approach the cabin, dragged away from their partners. Their necks are broken by powerful claws, and even stronger jaws. Their screams die in their lungs before they get to warn the others.

The first one to run and the last one to live reaches the cabin at last, and when he reaches the children, he shakes them in an attempt to awaken them. He cries and begs for them to wake up, and fails to notice the grotesque blot of darkness shambling towards him, eyes glowing with rage.
Rage at this invader for being so close to the cubs, for touching them, and disturbing their sleep.

Her patience has run out, and he never hears the sickening crunch made by the jaws clamped around his skull.

She knows that, soon enough, the cubs will get off the floor, open their eyes and enjoy the meal she will prepare with so much care. It's been too long, they've been like this for two days now. Thin as they are, they must be really hungry.

Maybe the children will be eager to eat something that smells familiar to them.