Baykok, by Chad A. Clark
Shaw looked up from the fire and the smells of his cooking dinner towards the sound coming from the tree line. It could have been a deer stepping on dead branches, but from the echo, it had sounded like bones popping. He shook his head and went back to tending the fire. The shitty job back in Detroit was supposed to be the source of his stress, not this place. His hunting and camping trips up here to the upper peninsula were supposed to be the remedy. Still, he had been uneasy these last few nights, some instinct in the back of his mind feeling restless, telling him that somehow he was becoming the hunted.
His head shot up at the new sound that erupted, this time that of footsteps marching out from the trees and he jumped up at the sight.
“What the Christ?” he yelled as he stood, nearly tripping over the log he had been sitting on and began looking around for his rifle.
From the light of the fire, he could see the thing striding towards him. It looked like one of the model skeletons from high school science rooms, but with ragged strips of sinewy flesh hanging off of it, eyes blazing with a red light that hurt to look at.
Shaw had his hands around the stock of the gun, but the thing had already produced a bow and drew it back. He could see no arrow notched, but when the bowstring snapped, he felt the burning impact in his shoulder and was thrown to the ground. Burning that started in his shoulder, spread to the rest of his body, and in a blink of a moment, he was lying on his back, completely immobilized. He tried to move, to struggle and get away, but no part of his body responded to the commands.
He was being thrown down next to the fire, on his back. He could see everything around him and feel what was happening, but was lost inside himself, unable to articulate anything, even in his mind. He saw the animate corpse produce a long, silver dagger, and in a moment of unadulterated pain, the thing stabbed and sliced down his midsection. As his consciousness dwindled, he was ushered off by the moist sounds of something off in the dark chewing, food being sloppily and greedily consumed.
* * *
It had been campers who brought the man in. He had come stumbling out of the woods, delirious and raving about a skeleton attacking him, and while he was clearly sick, barely able to stand under his own power, the doctors could not figure out what was wrong. John Doe lingered under intensive care for several hours while they conducted tests and ran out their best guesses but, in the end, they were unable to save him.
It wasn’t until during the autopsy that they finally found the large rock that had been placed inside of him, precisely where his liver should have been.
For more short fiction, check out Chad’s books : A SHADE FOR EVERY SEASON (available in paperback, eBook and audiobook) and TWO BELLS AT DAWN (available in paperback and eBook)