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A human sized one!? He walked right by that doorway, how did he not notice!?

That thing must know he’s in here, it must’ve heard him open and close the door, squeak up the stairs. There’s no way it didn’t. Unless... unless it entered the house after all that. Like, maybe... while he was upstairs? Yeah, maybe that’s what happened. That’s why he wouldn’t’ve noticed before. Besides, he doesn’t know if there’s any holes in the walls or anything else it could’ve come through. Maybe he still has a chance. He has a gun, but with that giant one somewhere outside there’s no way in hell he’d use it. Those ears... the knife is still his best bet. Ugggg that means getting in close. The claws on the big one were terrifying, if this one’s the same it’ll probably just tear him to pieces.

The shadow moved again, bringing him back to the present. The tail swishing idly. It looked like it was facing away from the doorway, leaning with its elbows on a counter maybe. He didn’t care why. It just meant his stomach would have to stay hungry. Silently, reluctantly, he stepped off the stairs. Making his way around the right side to the small hallway. A couple other doors were here, Would’ve been nice to check them out. There was also the small nook that was maybe where you’d put a table with a key dish or something.

pat... pat... pat... ... ...

Oh goddammit! Anton slipped into the empty nook, clutching the knife to his chest to quiet his lungs.

pat... pat... shhhk... ... tack... ... ... pat... ... ...

Sparkling fairies did the Macarena with his eyes to taunt him about the breath cowering in his throat.

squik... ... tack... ... squik... ... squak... ... tick... ...

Upstairs!? He still has a chance! Waiting more agonizing seconds until it stepped solidly on the second level, strolling softly in the common area, It was time to move. Maybe there’s a better way out than the front door in the kitchen, or something he can grab quick. Slowly, quietly peeking his head around the corner. Moving along the wall like a shadow, knife drawn, checking the balcony above. Peeking up the stairs with his heart between his teeth... nothing. It’s shuffling both worried and inspired him. Either not knowing or not caring that he could hear.

From here there were no obvious entrances in view through the archway. Tiptoeing swiftly through it, no time to check corners, he stepped silently onto the cold linoleum. Well that’s where all the light was coming from. A bare window embedded in the top of a door showed the backyard, overgrown with that dark grass with a single dead tree in the corner. There were a few bright coloured things, a large ball, a child’s playhouse caked in grime. Did she come in this way? Does that mean this door won’t squeak? The grass and shrubbery were quite thick, thick enough to hide in. His fingers danced over the knob... then pulled away. He couldn’t do it. Manoeuvring himself to hide his shadow he paused to think. Looking at the front window, the beige drapes weren’t great at blocking light. That’s what she was facing. Shit, he’d looked right in there on the outside...

He heard another series of soft rumbles in the distance, they said it was time to leave.

Skulking to the archway, Anton pressed himself to the right side. He listened, but all he could hear was the odd crunch outside. Not really getting closer or further away, just walking around in the area it seemed. The small one had gone silent on purpose, he was sure of it. But there wasn’t much choice so he peeked out the doorway, the stairs were clear as best as he could tell. But the other side of the door was a blindspot. Steadying himself he prepared for a fight. Taking a slow quiet breath he readied the knife and stepped through the doorway.

Reactively whipping out his arm in a stab at throat level as he swung left around the corner. But nothing was there. Eyes darted quickly around the room, catching a shadow to his left.

It was on the wall.




Covering his mouth with one hand, gripping his wrist with the other. The knife lay harmlessly on the floor. Its face was entirely too close to his. Gleaming a smile of daggers the colour of a toothpaste ad. It’s... her weight pressing into him. His shoulders and back crushed against the wooden floorboards...

“Ssshhhhhhhhh...” She whispered as his free hand started to tense. Flicking her tail playfully,“You don’t want her to hear us do you?” Her sharp pupils flexed with interest and something else unsettling. Rimmed with a pencil thin intense green iris. Almost neon coloured. Inlaid in a rich gold sclera flecked with brown. And all he could think was “How the hell’d she do that?

A slight shudder rippled into his back, flickering at his heart. His arms shook, her eyes dared him to try it. His responded with confusion, anger. Pressing harder into him, gripping her fingertips tight into his skin. Her very bare chest squashed into his. Strands of black hair brushing across his cheeks as she spoke.

“Imagine how much trouble you’d be in... if she heard you.” Squeezing his wrist painfully to make sure he got the message, Jarring his cute brown eyes. Her little piece of cake with sprinkles on it...

Another, stronger rumble outside drove the point into his brain with a railroad spike. Anton relaxed... obediently. Gritting his teeth as her ears flitted open, smile widening.

“Good boooooy...” she whispered patronizingly. Uncupping his mouth, sweeping her fingers through his embarrassingly average chestnut hair. Scritching his head affectionately, her sheathed claws still hurt a little. “Now... I’m sure you understand that things are going to end very badly for one of us.”

A sharp crunch vibrated into his spine. Absorbing the shock for her. Flickering shadows were starting to fleck the walls.

“But if you keep being a good boy... I promise... I will make it quick and painless for you.”


Chapter End Notes:




I was going through a good deal of burnout the week I was working on this. I was very lucky that this was still part of the 8 chapter or so raw buffer of The Punished that I only needed to polish rather than write from scratch. Though I rewrote this to the degree that I might as well have written it from scratch anyways. The burnout at the time came from spending literally every day without exception doing nothing but work for the previous four or five weeks. After awhile I think my mind just melted. So the week of this chapter was being spent largely recovering as best as I could while still making sure I met my various deadlines.

I think that affected this chapter a little. I had trouble making sure I built anticipation and tension. I went over the scene of Anton stabbing the air many times. Originally I had more detail about where the creature was and how she took him down but I felt like it was better to take all that out. I’d written in that Anton was confused about it and I thought leaving most of the details out put readers more in his mind, where he only quickly see’s that it’s “on the wall” and then the rest is just a blank that leaves him confused.

I wanted to put in a lot of Anton’s thought process of why he did or didn’t do certain things but I took a lot of it out too because I felt like it was making the reading too dry. I didn’t want his decisions to seem arbitrary or purposely stupid, but at the same time I wanted the audience to try piecing it together themselves. I figured complaints I might get would be “why didn’t he just run out the front door?” or “Why didn’t he try to hide in the backyard?” especially. And although readers could’ve put together reasons themselves for these things, if I left them totally blank I figured it might feel contrived or fake. It’s a delicate balance that I need to get used to for horror themes especially.

I also rewrote Anton’s character in this chapter to be a lot more capable and proactive than what he was in the original Soul Food version. Given that he’s more of an actual character than a fetish fantasy punching bag or whatever now. I mean, I could’ve kept him the same way as before and just changed his character development a bit but I’ve changed so much about what The Punished is that it just didn’t seem right. I figure most people would probably act a little more scared than Anton is, but then again, some wouldn’t. It all really depends.

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