Night Terrors

by Brad Hilderbrand

“I can’t feel my arm.”

The woman’s eyes were glazed, and she was convulsing in shock. Her left arm was gone, nothing left but some jagged bone near her shoulder and the pool of blood that had convalesced around where the limb once was. Every time her heart beat more of her life trickled out onto the pavement, and she would likely be dead from blood loss in a few minutes. Even if the bleeding at her shoulder could be staunched, she was also missing a large chunk of her abdomen, as well as her right leg below the knee.

“Shhh. Don’t worry, help will be here soon. You’re going to be fine.” Derrick knew it was a lie, but he wanted to try and keep the woman calm and relatively comfortable in her final moments. As horrific as her injuries were, she would pass away before she ever felt a thing. A special enzyme in the chilanders’ saliva anesthetized the bites instantly, much in the same way humans don’t know they’ve been bitten by a mosquito until the bug is long gone and the affected area begins to itch. However, now that the creatures were gone the numbness would wear off rather quickly, and if the blood loss didn’t take the woman soon the shock surely would.

Of course, while mosquitos draw a bit of blood and may leave behind malaria, the chilanders devoured entire bodies and the only remnants of their prey were typically a pile of bones. Derrick didn’t used to believe any creature could be so horrific but that had all changed. He heard the stories, saw the videos and now he had seen their handiwork firsthand. He knew now that the only thing these creatures lived for was torment and suffering.

No one can pinpoint exactly when the monsters emerged, but their telltale signs of slaughter first began sporadically appearing roughly three years before. Derrick recalled reading news stories about human remains being found in the Chilean rainforest, skeletons picked clean in their own homes. At first the reports chalked the phenomenon up to a serial killer, but as similar bodies were found in various nations the theory evolved into some sort of cult of cannibals who were finally expressing their long-suppressed urges to feed. No one knew at the time the truth would be even more horrifying.

The first alleged sighting of the chilanders by an attack surviver was made by Norman Alberts of Oklahoma. Norman was nothing special, just a blue collar worker who spent most of his waking hours either at the tool and dye shop where he earned his paycheck or the bar where he spent it. After downing enough beers to put a lesser man out cold on the floor Norman made his way home and stumbled into the bedroom, where he suddenly saw something moving under the covers on top of his wife. Enraged at what he perceived to be marital infidelity the quickly flicked on the lights and jerked the sheets off the bed.

Instead of Alan, Norman’s next door neighbor who he’d always assumed had the hots for his wife, the drunk spotted what he described as five or six furry creatures that measured about three feet long. He claimed that they looked a bit like capuchin monkeys, but with larger heads, sharp nails and ferocious teeth. Most chilling of all, he stated that one of the monsters stopped its feast on his wife’s small intestine long enough to turn and look directly at Norman with eyes the conveyed an intelligence he had never before seen in man nor beast. It was as though the monster was sizing him up, deciding if the miserable pile of booze and skin in the doorway posed any real threat, and if so, how best to deal with him. The creature grinned, if you can call it that, and let out a low growl that caused all the monsters to turn on and face poor Norman.

Seeing what the chilanders had already done to his wife and inferring what would happen to him as a consequence of interrupting their feast, Norman spun and quickly begun running down the hall and towards the front door. The beers he had consumed earlier were still affecting him, and he couldn’t help but stumble as he attempted his escape. The horrors were already at his heels, their unnatural speed and agility allowing them to quickly close what little lead he had. One monster pounced and bit his leg, and after the briefest twinge of pain Norman felt the entire limb go instantly numb. The sudden loss of control sent him crashing to the ground, but his survival instincts told him that stopping, even for a moment, would surely mean death. The remaining chilanders were closing in now, coming to dole out retribution on the lush who had dared interrupt their meal. Norman glanced around, looking for anything he might be able to use to defend himself. He cursed the sheer misfortune of being the only man in Oklahoma who didn’t own at least one gun.

His eyes fell upon a fireplace poker, which he quickly grabbed and drove into the shoulder of the beast on his leg. The creature howled in pain and retreated into a corner of the room, seething with rage. Two others pounced, but Norman managed to swat them away and send them crashing into some shelving and his wife’s collection of porcelain dishes, buying himself a few seconds. Normally Sheila would have been furious at her husband for causing such a ruckus, but that wasn’t going to be an issue anymore. Besides, Norman hated those plates anyway, so he wasn’t particularly upset to see them go.

Seizing his momentary advantage Norman used the poker to steady himself as he arose, tore through the front door on his one good leg and dove into his truck. The monsters were close behind, and immediately set out to try and open the door handle or squeeze in through the cracked windows. Under normal circumstances Norman would had marveled at the fact that these beasts were actually attempting to open a door using the handle, but instead he merely started the truck and gunned the engine, intent on getting to a hospital, police station or somewhere that seemed safe. He was disgusted at himself for leaving his wife to those things, but he rationalized his cowardice by telling himself he was no good to anyone dead. As terrifying as it was to admit it, he could tell from the way the monsters coordinated their attacks that this was more than just a pack of animals out hunting, they were also frighteningly intelligent, and there would be more victims.

Norman’s story circulated in the local papers and a few tabloids, but almost no one believed the stories of a drunk. One particularly intrepid reporter noticed how the remains of Sheila Alberts looked remarkably similar to those original found in Chile and took to calling the mystery creatures “chilanders.” The name somehow stuck, and over the weeks and months reports of sightings steadily grew. It was at this point a group of survivalists who truly believed the stories took it upon themselves to try a rather grisly experiment.

The creatures seemed to only attack at night, and they most often struck isolated individuals in fairly rural areas. Thus a plan was hatched to plant bait at the edge of the Black Hills National Forest, a seemingly favored hunting spot for the monsters. Of course, the bait for the trap had to be a human, and the “volunteer” didn’t exactly sign up for the job willingly.

The captors lashed the man to a bed in a run-down cabin and then fitted the room with three cameras. They’d found him standing at an intersection with a cardboard sign and promised a hot meal and a shower. The unlucky soul was sat at a table with a feast fit for a king, and he couldn’t believe his good fortune. He had been panhandling around the city for years now, using the few dollars he could scrounge from passing motorists to buy the drugs that dulled the pain in his brain.

Now he felt he had finally found some folks who genuinely cared, who he could milk for a month or two until their good will ran out and he’d be forced back onto the street. He assumed the sleepiness that was overcoming him was due to having a full belly and warm feet for the first time in recent memory, but it was actually do to the considerable dosage of tranquilizers mixed in with the vagrant’s food and drink. By the time he finally woke up he was alone and tied to a bed in a room that looked very different than the one he remembered from before. He assumed his captors had plans to rape and eventually murder him, and as horrible as it seems that may have been a more preferred outcome.

The believers had hoped to catch the chilanders on film and prove their existence once and for all. For days they waited, but nothing happened. They force fed their guinea pig in the hopes that fattening him up might attract the beasts, but night after night the tapes only returned footage of a pained, terrified man jumping with fright every time a twig snapped or the wind rustled through the trees outside. Leaving the windows open so the monsters had easy access also didn’t help on the particularly chilly Wyoming nights.

On the 12th night of surveillance the group’s patience was finally rewarded. The woman assigned to keep tabs on the video feed nodded off around midnight, and didn’t notice when one of the cameras suddenly cut out. The camera that had been compromised was placed out in the open, meant to be easily spotted. A second camera, tucked into the rafters of the room and presumably out of sight was also disabled exactly four minutes after the first, leaving the only live feed coming from a final camera that was hidden inside the wall and behind a one-way mirror cleverly concealed as part of the vanity. It was this camera which finally showed the world the things that would shape our nightmares for years to come.

The first chilander to attack was the one which turned off the other cameras. The footage showed the animal moving to disable the visible camera while also staying out of the sight-line of the one hidden in the ceiling. Afterwards, the creature nimbly makes its way up to into the ceiling and out of frame for a few minutes. During this time it turned off the second camera, all while being so quiet as to not disturb its prey, who was quietly sleeping below.

After all these nights the hobo had stopped believing in monsters of the non-human variety, and assumed all he had to fear were the hooded figures who kept pouring food and water down his throat even when he tried to refuse. Still, he tried to doze, uncomfortable as he was, hoping that each morning when he awoke maybe the police would show up or he’d somehow find himself miraculously freed.

The chilander lowered itself down onto the headboard of the bed and then leaned in closely to the man’s face, baring the teeth which would soon tear his flesh from his bones. Whatever he was dreaming of in this moment, he was about to wake to a nightmare from which he couldn’t escape.

The monster jumped onto its victim’s chest and sunk its teeth deep into the man’s neck. The poison that flowed from the chilander’s fangs had two equally disturbing effects. First, it instantly paralyzed the victim; and second, it created a surge of adrenaline that woke the nameless drifter from his fitful sleep. His eyes opened to a grinning monstrosity, the chilanders’ eyes burning with intensity. The animal’s expression said it all, it seemed to be taking satisfaction in discovering and breaking the cameras, and it was even more pleased at the suffering it was about to inflict. It then turned away and emitted the same low growl originally described by Norman Alberts, and moments later three more chilanders scurried in through the open window and up onto the bed. They then set about their work of slowly, meticulously picking their victim apart.

Their meal tried to scream but couldn’t, the paralytic effects of the venom rendering him to unable to do little more than breathe. The fact he couldn’t feel each bite almost made it worse, and as he watched the blood begin to pool where his hands and feet once were he prayed death would come swiftly. It was nearly three hours before he finally passed out from blood loss, and by that point his right leg was gone and his left was little more than a nub. His arms were missing below the elbow, but the chilanders seemed more interested in his fleshy abdomen than they did his bone-filled arms. He could swear that he could see his own heart beating through his now-exposed ribcage before the wooziness finally overtook him.

The next morning the believers watched the tape of the night before in abject horror. They searched the area around the cabin for the creatures’ trails, but it was as though the demons had vanished into thin air. Still, they had the tape, and their new goal was to warn the world what was at hand.

Derrick Henderson watched the clip online in disbelief. A group of rednecks out in the wilderness claimed that the recent string of murders were the work of some sort of monster and the video was meant as proof. He watched the lengthy clip with skepticism, assuming that some Hollywood studio was trying to pull a viral marketing stunt and capitalize on the populace’s collective fear. Still, he couldn’t help but shake the feeling that this wasn’t some scheme, something deep inside his gut warned him that this was real.

As weeks passed more evidence came rolling in, and so did the attacks. A woman in Germany claimed she saw the monsters feasting on a homeless man in downtown Munich. A young Australian boy was filmed being swarmed by chilanders as he played in the garden. At first Derrick was disgusted that the person holding the camera hadn’t tried to help the child, but eventually realized that to intervene was suicide. Numerous other clips had shown good Samaritans trying to chase off the beasts, but interlopers were dealt with harshly. While the chilanders could be horrid enough with their prey, they were even more ferocious towards those who interfered. The creatures had a horrific ability to keep their meals alive until the victim was little more than a head and part of a torso. The lucky ones died quickly when a hungry creature went straight for the heart or brain, others languished for hours while the monsters slowly devoured them, always keeping the poor souls conscious so as to not miss a single bite.

Derrick had always hoped that crisis would bring out the best in humanity, but instead he watched the fabric of society slowly unravel. Governments around the world refused to believe in stories of monsters, and the few that did indulge this flight of fancy met with no success. Small units were sent into the forests to hunt for chilanders, but most were never heard from again. The bodies disappeared alongside their gear and guns, so it was impossible to tell how many were slaughtered and how many simply chose to flee rather than take on a suicide mission.

The only country which opted to take the threat seriously was, surprisingly, France. The French president ordered every available unit to sweep the nation and wipe out the creatures which mercilessly attacked the citizenry. The plan was to drive the monsters out and then secure the country’s borders, making it the only safe location on the globe. Within eight months the French military was decimated, reduced to only a few thousand soldiers and practically no useable materiel. The nation was effectively defenseless, and the chilander attacks had only intensified.

What came next that spelled the doom of humanity, as previously friendly European nations allowed themselves to be overcome by ancient animosities. England, Spain and Germany all rushed in to lay claim to the lands of France, and military conflict erupted almost immediately. Other countries were drawn in to help allies, attack foes or merely attempt a land grab, and within months a new World War was at hand.

The chilanders used the confusion and warfare to their advantage, appearing en masse nightly all around the globe and wiping out entire towns before daybreak. At first they stuck to small, isolated villages and sleepy hamlets, but they slowly worked their way up  to increasingly larger cities. In a single night Montreal was overrun with the creatures, and three-quarters of the population was slain by daybreak. Survivors recounted the horrifying experience, explaining that the chilanders attacked from seemingly every direction at once, moving in such a coordinated fashion so as to cut off any potential escape routes. The few who remained were driven into the heart of the city, taking refuge at the top of the tallest buildings they could find.

Survivors were sure it was just a matter of time before the creatures came for them, but the relentless attack abruptly ended at dawn. As the first rays of the sun broke the horizon the chilanders let our an ear-piercing screech and then immediately retreated beyond city limits. Those left alive waited a few hours for fear of some sort of trap, and when it became apparent that the monsters were gone they quickly fled the city in the hopes of finding sanctuary elsewhere.

Unfortunately there was nowhere to run, as the beasts were systematically ravaging the entire globe. The United States had been effectively split in half, with a great dead zone between Chicago and Denver. The Plains States were lost, and it seemed like the Rocky Mountains and the Midwest would be the next to fall. Most believed they were merely delaying the inevitable, and some decided to stop running and accept their fate.

The constant warfare and never-ending chilander attacks led to massive civil unrest and widespread rioting. Police and military forces, already virtually annihilated, were powerless to stand up to the angry mobs, and one by one the governments of the world began to fall. Surprisingly, the last president left standing was Kim Chi Sung of North Korea, who had told his people since the beginning that the chilanders were a special pet he had bred to take revenge on the capitalist nations that had forced the citizens of the One True Korea to live on the brink of starvation. His reign as the self-professed King of Nations was a short one though, as his skeletal remains were found one morning in his bedchamber alongside those of three fourteen year old girls and one fifteen year old boy he retained as personal prostitutes.

Leaderless and disorganized the surviving citizens banded together in makeshift communities bent on survival. The early morning chilander retreat in Montreal and elsewhere demonstrated the creatures’ single weakness, a deep aversion to light. Though the monsters were numerous and quick they were also relatively small and weak when compared to most humans, and their greatest advantage in hunting was the element of surprise and stealth. Also, the demons’ pupils seemed to be larger than normal, ideal for low-light situations. Though the beasts were occasionally spotted in the daytime they seemed largely nocturnal, and there were no reports of any attacks taking place during daylight hours. Armed with this knowledge the survivors began ringing their encampments with high-intensity lights and posting guards to drive back chilanders which dared expose themselves.

The large-scale attacks were effectively halted, and after a few months people began to adjust to new routines. Sure, there were still stories of those living beyond the lights who had been viciously murdered, but it was their own fault for sacrificing safety for their own personal comfort. Though humanity had been decimated by the beasts, it seemed as though their may be hope for the future after all.

Wendy Macklin stepped into the evening air feeling better than she had in months. She had taken refuge in Mount Holly, North Carolina, which sat a little over ten miles from the remains of Charlotte. She arrived in the town six months ago with a group of about 20 refugees who learned of the safe haven. The first weeks had been tense, and part of the requirement of residence was that each citizen was required to keep armed watch at the perimeter at least once every eight nights. Wendy hated guard duty, convinced that every shadow was a chilander conducting reconnaissance and every sound the creatures‘ call to attack. She also didn’t know the first thing about firing a gun, and yet she had been handed a military-grade assault rifle and given only cursory instructions on how to fire it. She worried that if the rest of the camp were as ill-equipped as her then they weren’t going to last long, lights or no.

Still, there was nowhere better to go as the town’s proximity to Charlotte meant it was well-stocked and strongly defended. Scavenging parties headed into the former metropolis whenever fresh provisions were needed and as luck would have it the camp was home to an electrical engineer who had managed to get enough substations up and running so as to keep the lights at full strength every night. Those who lived in the camp boasted how their town would be the new American capital when life finally got back to normal.

Those first nervous nights seemed long gone now, and Wendy began to settle back into familiar routines. She was teaching herself how to cook elegant French dishes which she would offer to those who were about to go on guard duty for the evening. For exercise, she had also resumed the brisk evening walks she used to take around her old neighborhood. Popping in her earbuds she would listen to classical music and allow herself to think about what life would be like in the future. She considered opening her own French restaurant in a newly-established city and maybe even finally telling that cute guard with the dark hair and sexy beard stubble how she felt about him. Her mind started to drift back to her parents, but she quickly slammed the door shut on that memory lest she recall the horrible way in which they died. Instead she began to consider what manner of sauce would best compliment the chicken she would be preparing for next Tuesday’s guard rotation.

Wendy was so immersed in thought that at first she didn’t even notice the figure in the trees. It had been following her for quite a while, silently hopping from branch to branch and always keeping her in its sight. She stopped when she thought she saw a flash of brown, but chalked it up to the breeze and the autumn leaves swaying in the wind. Still, she felt some deep, primal urge to run. Part of her wanted to sprint into the nearest building, lock the doors and windows and find a gun.

Wendy began to back away slowly, never taking her gaze off the branches of the old oak that had suddenly spooked her. There were a few families who lived around the corner, and if she cut through the alley between the row of buildings behind her should easily make it to safety without ever taking her eyes off the tree. As she entered the alley Wendy suddenly felt a heavy weight fall onto her shoulder, followed by a sharp stab in her neck. Instantly she lost all feeling in her arms and legs and crumpled to the ground in a heap, snapping her ankles and likely dislocating her shoulder. Wendy couldn’t feel the pain though, she couldn’t feel anything. All she could see were the eyes of a creature whose sole purpose in life was to kill, and it had been far too long since this passion was fulfilled. It was the satisfaction in those eyes that terrified her most of all.

The chilander signaled for the hunting party to gather up, and instantly two more creatures appeared from under boxes and piles of trash in the alley. The scout was eager to come down from the tree and partake in a meal, but she understood that they were in unsafe territory and she was the only one who could alert the others if any unexpected guests were to arrive. Besides, as the leader of this hunt it was her right to eat the prey’s heart, and that was a delicacy worth waiting for.

Derrick grabbed his rifle and headed out for guard duty. He was watching the Eastern side of town tonight, his most-hated post. Not only was his assignment the farthest point possible away from his home, but that side of the town was bordered by a forest set on a hilltop, making the lights all but useless. Guards could easily watch the hill for any signs of movement, but the thicket of woods beyond were so dense that the spotlights’ beams could barely penetrate anything. Derrick knew in his gut that if the chilanders ever came back it, that would be their point of attack.

Derrick’s reluctance to report had left him running a few minutes late, so he decided to take a shortcut. As he weaved through the alleyways and back roads he checked his rifle and spare magazine, wondering to himself how long he would even last when facing a whole swarm of monsters with just two clips of ammunition. The East sector was fortified with a couple heavy gun emplacements, but he even wondered if that would be enough to hold off the massive chilander swarms he had heard about attacking cities in the Midwest.

As Derrick rounded the corner behind what was once a general store his thoughts were interrupted by a high-pitched shriek he had only heard once before, in the online video he watched of the chilander retreat from Montreal. He looked up to see three monkey-like creatures bolting out of the alley and across the street, and he thought he could see a fourth climbing down a tree and heading for the forest he had watched so intently all those nights before. He fumbled with his gun, attempting to jam in the magazine he had been mindlessly inspecting moments before. The combination of fear and adrenaline made him clumsy though, and the monsters were gone before he even had a chance to chamber a round. He rushed to the woman lying in the street, but he could tell even before he got close that there was no way he’d be able to save her.

“I can’t feel my arm,” Wendy rasped, barely able to choke out the words through her numb lips.

“Shhh. Don’t worry, help will be here soon,” Derrick responded. “You’re going to be fine.” He tried to sound calm and confident for the victim’s sake, but inside he was quivering with terror. The monsters were back, and they had found a way to get inside the supposedly safe camp. They were adapting, adjusting their tactics to resume the hunt against their favored prey. Humanity hadn’t won, it merely forestalled the inevitable. Derrick wasn’t safe here, he wasn’t safe anywhere, no one was.

The end was coming, there was nothing left to do but wait for it.

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