Tales of the Hidden Worlds

Birth of a Hunter

Artwork by Bryan Donihue

It had been a long day. Up at five o’clock in the morning to get ready and make the two-and-a-half hour drive to be at the range in Brighton, Michigan by 9am. The match started an hour later and lasted until just before 4pm. It was a long drive back, but it was worth it for the 3-gun match. Pete was pleased with his scores, placing second in his division and beating his previous best score. It was just past nine as he pulled his aging pickup into his driveway. He was already thinking about his bed, dreading the early hours of the following morning at his shop.

Pete shut off his truck and wearily climbed down from the cab. At just over six feet tall, he easily reached into the bed of the truck and opened the lid of the steel cargo box. He lifted out a rifle case, a shotgun case, and a range bag that was much lighter now, after he had spent all day shooting the ammunition that he took to the match. He closed the lid, picked up the gun cases, and walked up to his front door, which he now realized was standing wide open.

His wife and daughter should be in the house. He could see that the lights in the living room and dining room were lit, but the curtains were closed. He started to get worried, and then realized that Brutus should have greeted him at the door. Brutus was his six-year old Rottweiler that stood two feet tall at the shoulder and weighed around a hundred thirty pounds. Nice to everyone he knew, Brutus was fiercely loyal to Pete and his family, and would have defended his wife and child. Every instinct in Pete was telling him that this was a bad situation, and he needed help.

Pete was just over six feet tall, and weighed close to two hundred eighty pounds, most of which was lean muscle. As a machinist by trade, he was used to working with his hands all day. He reached to his right hip and drew his gun. His “help” was a customized STI 2011. Based on the venerable Colt 1911 platform, STI had built the 2011 to work with the same controls and feel, but widened the body to hold a larger magazine. Pete was glad that his magazine was fully loaded at twenty-one rounds of hollowpoint defensive ammunition.

Gripping the pistol with both hands, the big man raised the gun to eye-level, looking down the sights as he entered the home. “Honey, I’m home! Jennifer? Emma? Anyone here?” Pete called out, hoping for a response. He did not get one he wanted.

Ahead of him, in the kitchen, he heard a low growl. “Brutus? Is that you, boy?” He doubted it was the Rottweiler.

He edged around the corner, muzzle of his pistol pointed in front of him. The growl got louder, and he knew it was not his dog. He saw fur. It was definitely dog hair. It was on a large leg and rear hip. Great Dane? Pete mentally shook his head. He was starting to be very scared. This is not Colorado. Please don’t let it be like Colorado. The front sight was shaking slightly as the big man’s heart started pounding.

He rounded the corner, and came face to snout with… it. His mind blanked. It was a dog. If the dog were man-sized and stood on two weirdly misshapen hind legs, it would be a dog. This was something else. It growled, a deep rumbling in its throat that was getting louder. Pete watched as the creature’s lips peeled back in a snarl, revealing a row of razor sharp teeth and canine fangs that were at least two inches long. The coal-black eyes stared at the big man.

Pete’s thumb swept down, disengaging the safety with a slight click. The creature’s dog-like ears lay back against its head, ready for an attack. Pete’s right index finger inched slowly downward, leaving the frame of the pistol and resting on the trigger. His finger twitched, and the competition-ready trigger moved a quarter of an inch. The sear released, and the hammer fell on the firing pin. The 147 grain copper-jacketed hollowpoint exploded out of the barrel at upwards of 1,200 feet per second and crossed the three feet between Pete and the creature before the slide had even finished cycling. As the first 9mm slug entered through the creature’s left eye, Pete was already pulling the trigger again. The second slug entered the eye cavity less than half an inch away from the first.

The creature dropped to the floor, the back of its head gaping open and missing large portions of its brain and skull. It took Pete a second to realize that he had even pulled the trigger. By the time he realized it, his hands started shaking. The door stood open, and it looked as if nothing were in there. The door to his left was Emma’s bedroom. That door was scratched up and had bloody handprints on it. Emma’s door was cracked open about six inches. The door ahead was to the master suite, and it too was covered in scratches and handprints. It was currently closed.

The machinist nudged the door open, again sweeping with the muzzle of his pistol. The room appeared clear, but there was a bloody pile of rags on the floor at the foot of the bed. Anguish hit him like a battering ram. He realized that the pile of rags was actually the bloody and torn clothing that belonged to Emma, and that there were still lumps of… something hidden in the folds. As a tear rolled down his cheek, Pete gritted his teeth and turned away. He stepped out, took two more steps, and was at the closed door to the master suite.

Steeling himself, Pete turned the handle and threw wide the door. Inside the bedroom, there were two other creatures, feeding on something on the other side of the bed. As their heads popped up, he realized that they were not as gray as the other creature. Were they somehow younger? That wouldn’t matter to him.

The first creature to pop up took a round to the shoulder for its trouble. It was faster than Pete thought, and it ducked out of the way of his follow-up shot. The other creature half stood, and took two rounds in the stomach for its troubles, causing it to drop back down before the empty casings hit the ground.

Pete heard a growling and a grunt and the bed was heaved into the air, the creatures putting it up on its side. The big man pulled the trigger as fast as he could, emptying the magazine by shooting through the mattress and box springs, even as the mattress fell toward him. He stepped out of the way as he thumbed the magazine release button, dropping the magazine free. Before it hit the ground, Pete had grabbed a spare from his belt and slammed it home, thumbing the slide release.

When nothing moved for at least thirty seconds, Pete slowly edged around the box spring. There was nothing there except for a bloody pile of rags and meat. He looked up and saw that the window had been shattered in the creature’s haste to flee. He collapsed next to the remains staining the carpet red, letting the gun fall from his nerveless fingers.

The Muskegon County Sheriff deputies found him there forty minutes later.

Special Agent Memorial Wall
  • Pete McCarthy

Bryan Donihue
Bryan Donihue

Bryan is a published author (fiction and non-fiction), game designer, graphic artist, web designer, consultant, trainer, ministry leader, and multiple-business owner. He is also happily married to his wife of over 20 years, Christina, and father to six or seven kids, depending on the day. He even sleeps occasionally.