by The Teeth
Thirty days and those things are still hunting us. Nobody’s been caught by them yet, but it’s only a matter of time. They’re persistent—I’ll give them that—but they aren’t as good at fooling us as they seem to think. They can make themselves look almost human, but their mannerisms aren’t right. They mostly crawl around on their hands and feet, with their limbs spread unnaturally outward on either side. When they manage to stand, they do so with a telltale uneasiness. Not to mention their goddamned voices. They mimic bits of speech heard around the camp, chaining together unrelated words and phrases in a feeble attempt to gain our trust. It’s worst at night, when you can see their figures moving through the trees no more than one hundred yards away. There really seems to be more of them at night; and there sure are a hell of a lot of them.
If it wasn’t for the fires, I’m sure we would have been overrun by now. The things have a strong aversion to all forms of heat, I think, as it’s rare to see them in direct sunlight. We keep the fires burning non-stop; there is plenty of wood. When we venture out into the wild, we bring torches. So far, nobody has been in a conflict with the creatures, but we will not let our guard down. If the damned things aren’t dangerous, why do they beckon us with hunger in their eyes? Why do they swarm the perimeter of our camp each night, calling out to us in a mocking tone?
Last week one of the things got through the fence somehow, unnoticed. We were eating by the fire, when a female-looking figure with charred skin lunged out of the darkness screaming, “I am sentience!” Several of us grabbed torches and chased the thing toward the gate, opening it and allowing the beast to escape. We did not wish to capture it—or worse—and provoke retaliation. The camp was alive with discussion that night, and the thing’s words stuck out to us. It was probably just more random babbling, but our human brains were beginning to see patterns in the chaos. The things were getting smarter, that much was obvious, but how? How could they be learning so rapidly? First words, now syntax, and in just a few weeks. Someone mentioned the possibility of some psychic connection with the beasts. The idea was too macabre, and was dropped from discussion.
Since that night I’ve been tormented by dreams of the damned things. It begins deep in the woods, where it is cold and dark, and the air is stale because no wind can cut through the trees. I feel my face with my hands, and I am myself. In the distance I can see a faint orange light, I know it to be the bonfire. I approach it, but a strange thing happens. I fall to the ground. Unable to walk, I begin to crawl. I am horrified; I am crawling like them. I continue to the camp, determined to escape this fate. I manage to stand on two legs again, but I cannot maintain balance. The ground seems to twist and shake underneath me. The fence is just ahead, and I see the great raging fire. My skin begins to dry and peel off in layers; I scream.
The third night I was awakened by this grotesquely familiar scream. I jumped from bed and ran out of the cabin, looking toward the fence for the origin of the sound. I knew what I’d find there, but I had to see it for myself. By the time I got close enough to examine the figure, he was already retreating to the wild. There was no mistaking though; I was staring at the image of myself, limping into those black woods. It must have noticed me, too, because it stopped just before going out of view. It turned and smiled at me in a crooked way, and said“I am sentience.”
The others in the camp think I’ve cracked. I spend all night staring into the woods, and I refuse to sleep until dawn. I know the truth of the situation now, and it’s something they’ll all figure out soon enough. Thirty days and those things are still hunting, but they’ll never touch us. They need us. We created them, after all. Right now they’re still more mind than matter, but that could change. We give them form through our thoughts, and strength through our fear. And there’s a hell of a lot of them now, and a hell of a lot of fear, too.