Saturday, 5 September 2009

Blood Hunter by Lee Hughes

Part 6 of Lee's fabulous The Osseus Box epic continues with...

Blood Hunter

Billy was losing patience with the dickhead in front. It wasn't difficult to purchase a ticket. There wasn't a range of stops on offer; the ferry went from 'A' to 'B'.

Eventually it was Billy's turn at the kiosk. He felt uncomfortable as he walked. He knew it was down to the suit. Before this morning it had belonged to a man much fatter. Billy was confident that the body wouldn't be found for a little while. Long enough for him to do what the Devil wanted doing.

The woman behind the glass smiled. She reminded Billy of Carol. He was immediately struck with the memory of how she'd looked the last time he'd seen her. Lying there nearly split in two like she'd been logged and with a demon hanging halfway out.


“Huh?” Billy focused.

“Do you want a single ticket, or a return ticket?”


“Thirty pounds, please.”

Billy's eyes widened at the price. He mumbled something along the lines of. “At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask.”

He fumbled through the foreign pockets of his suit looking for the wallet. Billy slipped the cash through and waited for the ticket. He looked at the driving license. George Schofield, a fat, heavily balding, fifty-five year old man with jug ears. Billy reckoned he'd done the man a favour. He couldn't have had much of a life walking around and looking like that.

Billy caught sight of the clock. It was just after half-past twelve. The ferry was due to depart at two-fifteen with an arrival time of just before six. He figured it would work out just fine. There wouldn't be too long for dusk, and the beast's return.


Reunions and spit-swapping was blocking the aisle by the baggage reclaim. Billy worked his way through the throng and headed for the exit sign.

The sky was dimming, toning itself down in anticipation of the coming of night.

Billy went and leaned against the railing. He didn't dare leave the vicinity of the sea-terminal as the beast would need to pick up the scent from it.

They'd been traveling like this for the last few days. Billy would skulk about during the day whilst waiting to be battered into the beast's shape to journey by night.

At first there'd been a lack of direction to their travels. Until he'd read about the disappearance of the nun at the news-stand. The convent was where the beast had first picked up the scent, and they'd been following it ever since.

The worst part for Billy was the mornings. The beast deserted him naked at each first light. That meant starting each new day with a mugging to gather funds and clothing. He'd only given the others a pasting when he'd robbed them. But this morning's victim at the docks had needed to be killed. If he'd been able to get to the law they might have checked the ferry terminal. Billy couldn't let that happen. He'd made the death as swift as he could, considering he'd only had his hands to use.


The last true light of day shied away.

Bile rose in his mouth and a creasing pain stirred in his belly. Pain and nausea was the harbinger of the beast's coming.

Billy dashed around behind the terminal, gripping his belly like a man with the shits.

He rested a hand up against the wall. He drove two-fingers down his throat to sick up any food, a trick he'd learned on the second day.

Billy caught sight of movement in the corner of his eye. He looked. It was a dog half showing itself around the corner.

“Fuck off.” Billy croaked as strings of spit dangled from his lips. It turned and disappeared.

The beast constricted Billy's vocal-chords to mute his screams as it worked his flesh and bones into the shape of the Devil's plaything. Billy's back arched until it fractured, little by little Billy's features faded into hound.

The beast squatted and took a dump that was bright yellow through adrenaline. The creature worked its way around to the front of the terminal. It picked up the scent at once. The stink, it was impossible to miss. It was the stench of holy hypocrisy.

The hound ignored the looks of disgust that it achieved from the passersby who didn't know what to make of the bounding, malformed mutt.


Billy could see everything from within the confines of the mass of flesh that he shared with the beast. He was however, a bound passenger in the saddle of an oddity.

The scent led them out of the town and along country roads, passing through smaller towns and villages.


The beast slowed to a panting halt outside a detached house. Lights were on inside. The beast lingered at the door sniffing. It turned and dashed away catching the scent moving off in a new direction.

Billy could catch a whiff of wild garlic as they left the false lights of the town and took the chase to the banks of a river.


They'd spent most of their nights traveling through the countryside so as to attract as little attention as possible. There was a feeling of freedom, just bounding along through the unkempt grass.

They crossed a small wooden bridge where the river branched off into a smaller stream. The beast increased its speed sensing the closeness of its quarry.

The beast paused to sniff at a tent. It cocked an ear and knew the tent to be empty. The pitifully small river gripped its attention. With zeal it bounded to its muddy-bank and began to lap at the water.

Billy could taste the water. It had been spoiled by tiny insects and sediment. Above that was the fascinating and coppery taste of blood. They chased the blood upstream.


There were voices up ahead. It took only a moment for Billy to tell apart three separate people. There were two men and a woman.

“Sounds like someone left a window open.” a deep voice said.

“The river ends soon,” said another male voice, though higher in pitch.

Billy could see the beam of a torch sweeping back and forth.

Now a woman's voice joined in. “It's nearly pitched black and all we've got is that pocket torch.”

“It only goes on for another hundred yards or so. And, I've got a pretty good idea which way the blood will crawl when it leaves the river. I just want to make sure.”

The beast lowered itself and began to sneak forward. For such a large and cumbersome creature it managed to move in near perfect silence.

Billy watched the three walk off. They were keeping tight together and moving in a huddled mass to keep close to the light.


The trio stopped. The man with the deep voice asked. “Well?”

They'd reached the end of the stream where it disappeared into rock and mud.

“I knew it!”

“What?” The woman asked.

“The blood's still moving and it's heading in the direction of Snaefell.”

The man with the deeper voice asked. “Snaefell?”

With Billy sharing the hound's night-vision he could see a smile birthing upon the woman's thin lips.

She spoke with excitement. “Snaefell. It's the tallest mountain on the island. They say on a clear day you can see all six kingdoms from its summit.”

“Six kingdoms?” the man asked.

“England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Isle of Man and Heaven.” She sounded positively giddy at having that knowledge, thought Billy.

“So, what now?” The man asked.

The other replied. “It's too dark, and besides, it's way too far to go on foot. We can drive there at first light.”

“I'm not a mountaineer.”

The woman laughed. “Don't worry, it's not Ben Nevis. We can drive to the top.”


The beast waited until they were passing by. The speed in which it pounced stunned Billy.

It launched itself at the one holding the torch. It went for his throat, got it, and took a stretch of windpipe with it as it landed on all fours.

The torch tumbled from the now feeble grip. It landed at the same time as the body.

The woman screamed not knowing what was happening, or what was attacking them. The other man was trying to get the torch and shouting. “Run, just run!”

Billy watched as the woman more stumbled than ran back along the stream. He saw her fall a couple of times. He wondered why the beast wasn't running her down. The head swiveled and settled on the man who had just managed to pick up the torch and was pointing it right at them.

The beast bunched its haunches and made to attack the man with the torch. An enraged snarl caused it to snap its head towards the sharp noise. The beast growled and made itself ready for the attack.

Billy recognised the dog. He was sure it was the one that had watched him puking up behind the sea-terminal. There was no time to know for sure as they clashed in a mess of teeth and claw.

Billy's world went every which way. It was like being gypsy-spun on a waltzer. The beast appeared stronger than the Alsatian.

During one of the many brutal rolls Billy could see the light from the torch swirling as the man attempted to make good his escape. Billy knew that this fight would soon be over and then the beast would run down the man and do to him what it had done to the other.

Billy could taste dog's blood in his mouth. The beast had managed to get purchase on the dog's flesh and was biting down as hard as it could.

There was a feeling of triumphant victory quickly followed by blackness mixed with equal measures of nothing.


The world gradually returned to Billy. He ached all over. He knew he was still in the beast and not his own body. He had no idea what had happened. One moment they had been on the cusp of victory and the next the whole world was switched off.

Billy could feel the pain. It was everywhere, from hind-legs to broken-jaw. The beast struggled yet managed to get itself up. It scanned all around but there was no one and nothing to be seen, even the body of the man was gone.

The beast howled in pain and frustration. It turned in the direction that the blood had crawled from the river. It limped over, sniffed and moved on, determined although weakened. There was no carrot and stick approach with the Devil, only the stick and the beast knew it.


By the time that dawn came the pain and the limp receded a little. The unearthly beast had managed to heal during the course of the night.

The beast retreated with the morning light leaving Billy naked, cold and sore at the base of a small mountain. He saw the thin ribbon of blood heading up towards the summit. He knew that was where he had to head, though he had no idea what he was supposed to do when he got there.


Lee Hughes's short fiction has, or is due to appear on, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, FlashShots, Blink-Ink, MicroHorror, Every Day Fiction, Daily Tourniquet and in Cern Zoo: Nemonymous Nine.


  1. Best one yet, Lee. I was gripped. This 'episode' could be a single story in itself. Looking forward to part 7.

  2. Thanks Lily. Part 7 within the next seven days or your money back :o)

  3. Love this series... adventurous and evil...

  4. Lee, you must gather all of these chapters together at some point and post them in one place. It's an awesome story and deserves to be read as a full book in my opinion. But, not yet, eh. Keep 'em coming here first. MMM, I'm Loving it.

  5. Cheers all for the kind words, I'm enjoying telling it. I'll bundle them into an omnibus of sorts at the end with a 'Director's Cut' linking them all together with a spit and polish.

  6. Lee,
    Just 'broke in' my new notebook by reading this, which is somewhat apt as you helped me set the connection up (bloody computers - aargh!)

    I'm with the others and believe this is a series that could / should be maybe a novella, a novel or even a TV script as it's such a gripping read. Get checking your paying markets fella!
    Quality, mate.

  7. Cheers Col,

    I'll think about giving those things a go once the tale is told. Or unless anyone reading this wants to buy the rights, £200 million and it's yours. Not aiming too high there am I?

  8. Oh n Lee, I meant to say how thoroughly impressed I was your handling of Billy's plight from within the beast and the fact he was almost watching the thing actually controlling his every move - very skillful indeed, bud.

  9. Crossed posts!
    Aim for the stars, fella, n you might hit the moon!