Now, I only rarely reprint anything as I think it should stay at its first home. Unless something happens. The Howl anthology will no longer be on sale from the end of the month due to the publisher pulling it and another title. Mark over at Red Skies is going to do a reboot on it seeing as he put so much time into the original and doesn't want it to full fade. But the reboot is going to be about shape-shifters so Cu Sith won't be fitting in and I'll see about getting around to doing one. So figured, I'd bung it up here for those that didn't get a chance to buy a copy. I've actually gone through it, tightening it up and shortening it. I've starting using some editing tips from Matt Hilton, I'd be an idiot not to listen to him. 'Just' 'every' 'little' 'very' 'that' words like that, check their not cluttering up your sentences. I think you'll be amazed at how much you use them without really knowing and hoofing them the fuck out really does make a story flow smoother.
The Cu Sith and Mother's Milk
Ethan sank to the floor gripping his upper-leg in the hope that it would hinder the flow of blood. He panted as he worked himself free of his jacket and used it as a tourniquet. He tipped back his head and rested it against a wall that was nothing but rubble and tried to catch his breath.
He shook his head. All of this had come about because of a lie, though it was only a white lie. Everyone tells a few fibs when meeting a new girl. After hearing her say how much she loved hill walking he'd declared, "Me too."
She'd beamed, then looked awkward as she said, "Although I've not had much of an opportunity since giving birth." The fact that she was a single mother of a one-year old didn't really faze Ethan.
That was a month ago. Talk had gotten around to going away for the weekend. They'd managed to palm the baby off on Abby's parents for a couple of days. Abby had asked Ethan, "So where do you like walking the best?"
"As long as it's out in the countryside then anywhere." He'd worn a grin, on the inside it was a grimace. He begrudged walking to work, and that was only around the corner.
Now he was leant up against a stone wall on the Scottish Highlands with the wind trying to peel the skin clean off of him and his right thigh bleeding from the bite. The beast had dragged Abby off. It had been gentler with Abby. Grabbing her by the hood of her cagoule as if she was a pup and making off into the night with her.
Ethan had tried to give chase though his leg had forbid it. He saw the direction they'd disappeared and was keen to take up the chase. First he needed to get back to the tent and the first-aid kit. Abby had made sure they'd brought everything they'd need in case of unforeseen circumstances. He thought of the beast again and thinking about it brought dread. It had appeared green but that might have been a dishonesty of the moonlight. However, moonlight couldn't alter the size of the thing. It had been the size of a small cow.
It wasn't far to where the beast-thing had attacked them. Ethan had heard the sound of three loud barks and had ventured out to scare it off, taking it for a lowly, wild mutt whilst Abby got dressed. He'd barely been able to turn on the torch before the thing pounced taking him to the ground and sending the torch airborne. The din of deep-throated growls and the snapping of powerful jaws resounded through the halls of Ethan's mind. He'd tried to fight the thing off but knew it to be futile. The moon showed him its eerie, putrid, green coat of matted fur.
He attempted to escape and felt the hound's teeth settle deep into his flesh. The pain of fang scraping bone caused Ethan to come close to passing out. The hound released him and made for the door of the tent. Ethan tried to draw it away by shouting as he scratched at the cold, damp loam. The beast had lost interest in him and sniffed at the zipped up tent.
"Get away from her!" Ethan hollered. The beast continued to worry at the flap.
"What's happening?" Her call from inside.
The noise of Abby excited the hound and it began to run its claws over the canvas.
"Don't open the tent!" Ethan shouted, fumbling about and around himself for something to hurl. All he found was cold, damp ground and despair in abundance. The despair turned to terror as the beast managed to rent a gash in the fabric. He could only watch as the hound impregnated the tent with its dreadful head. The air blossomed with a bloom of screams and snarls.
"Leave her alone!" He yelled. His mind a picture-house that screened scenes of what might be occurring within the tent's confines.
Abby's scream went up a notch; Ethan had more visions of the hound tearing at her, removing bits and pieces as it frenzied. He watched as the huge mutt backed away from the tent, the beast dragged Abby by the hood of her coat. She was flailing and screaming, at least that let Ethan know she was still alive. Ethan tried again to move forward, ignoring the pain as best he could. The hound sensed the movement, paused, dropped Abby, turned, and snarled. Ethan stopped in his tracks, knowing he was in no fit state to try anything. The hound went low on its haunches before turning its attention back to Abby. Ethan could do nothing other than watch as both beast and captive disappeared into the darkness.
Ethan picked up the torch. It had been easy to find as the tube of light still spilled from its end. He crawled into the tent and found everything in disarray. He fumbled through the mess and found her backpack. He shook free all the contents and rifled for the first-aid kit. He steadied himself as he pulled down his pants. His imagination was showing him pictures of gore. Ethan sucked in air and shone the torch on his thigh. He relaxed. There were a good half dozen puncture wounds and he could see their depths with ease but it most certainly wasn't as bad as he had feared.
He made quick work of smearing anti-septic ointment on and then wrapped his thigh as tightly as he could. He pocketed his mobile phone. There was no reception but he hadn't expected there to be, not out in the middle of nowhere. Ethan grabbed up the stick Abby had been using and left the mess. He shone the torch in the direction that the beast had retreated. With a crippled limp he started after them. He couldn't help but wonder why the hound hadn't savaged Abby. Even the attack on himself, the hound had released him after biting.
As he moved he realised he had no real idea where he was. There was nothing else to do but carry on, swinging the beam back and forth and shouting out Abby's name every few strides. He earned a sharp scream and homed in on it, speeding up his pace.
His steps drew him down an incline that became steeper every few feet and closed up on both sides like a tight valley. Twice he stumbled and uttered oaths. Jagged rocks bothered his path. It worried him that her screaming had stopped.
Ethan was sweating heavily by the time he reached the bottom of the claustrophobic passage. He wasn't the fittest at the best of times and the leg injury sapped twice as much energy. He came to a stream, he heard it before he could see it. Its surface sparkled as it met with the torch's beam. He didn't remember seeing the river earlier. The uneasy feeling of getting lost began to feel like a twist in his stomach.
"Abby!" He called.
Silence was his reply.
He shone the light in a sweeping arc. There was nowhere other than across the stream the hound could have gone. He braced himself and stepped into the slow running water. It was deep enough to spill over and into his hiking boots. The water was like ice and Ethan winced. He forded it as fast as he could. "Abby!" This time he garnered what sounded like a low groan off to the east, and sounding not too far away. Hope puckered up inside and he drove himself onwards ignoring the chill inside his boots, the pain in his leg, and the wind that sought to bully him.
The groaning took him to the brink of a copse of trees. The light from the torch didn't offer much, he entered pretty much blind. The trees that crowded him kept the wind at bay. Ethan was wary about shouting out her name, fearful of the hound. He whispered instead, "Abby?" Again, he received that low groan. He knew it to be her voice, it had to be. He ventured deeper, the point of the torch never lingering in one spot for too long.
Ethan followed the low moaning to a small clearing. There was a large enough break in the canvas of foliage above to let the moonlight tumble in painting everything silver. It daubed Abby's still body as she lay upon a mound of earth. Ethan flashed the torch about the clearing. The hound was absent. That at least was something figured Ethan as he hobbled closer. He trained the torch on Abby. He halted. Things were shifting upon her torso, her bare torso. Ethan was rooted to the spot. He counted four small humanlike beings all vying to get a turn at suckling on Abby's tits.
Anger flooded Ethan. He got over to the mound as quickly as he could. He nearly batted them away with the stick but was wary of hitting Abby by mistake. He set aside the stick, reached out, and grabbed one by what seemed a gnarled and stunted wing. He tossed it into the darkness and reached for another. This one he cast away in the same manner. The third and the fourth went in a similar fashion. Ethan fell to his knees, shining the light on Abby. Her breasts looked red and bothered, the nipples still dotted with loosened milk. She was semi-conscious. Ethan shook her gently. "Abby, wake up, Abby."
She made only incoherent mumblings and moaning.
Sounds of distress aired from all directions. It was the miniature monstrosities that he'd plucked from Abby and discarded. For small, ugly creatures they were extremely vocal. Ethan jabbed at the darkness around him with the blade of light from his torch. The light illuminated glowing eyes in the undergrowth. The eerie vocalisation continued as Ethan tried to rouse Abby.
A bark snapped through the air thrice. It came from over on the far side of the clearing. Instinctively Ethan aimed the torch there. From the brush came the head that he had seen earlier.
Just as big and just as ferocious.
Fearlessly it came out into the open. The moonlight caught it and blended with the torchlight and Ethan saw it in all its glory for the first time. He had been right about its size. He had been right about its coat as well. It was a version of green that appeared to glow in the moonlight. Red eyes regarded Ethan. It came forward, low on its haunches, its top lip curled upwards, its bottom lip downturned to displaying large teeth.
Ethan raised the large stick. Relieved this time he had something with which to defend himself. The unearthly hound was uncaring of Ethan and his twig and continued on its lowdown approach. Ethan didn't have a spare hand with which to reach out and shake Abby some more. He begged, "Abby, wake up, for fuck's sake, wake up."
Abby made those same incoherent noises. Ethan had no option. The beast was large, but surely, if he hit it enough and hard enough it could be brought to the ground. Ethan could see that as the only way. The hound would literally dog his steps if he tried to leave with Abby.
The hound was shy of Ethan's swinging distance. Warily it watched the raised stick. Ethan willed it to come closer. He'd have to make the first a good one.
The hound moved forwards a little more. That was all that Ethan needed. He started on the downswing with as much power as he could muster. It got halfway before it went clean off target. The stick left his hands. The critters that had been sucking their fill from Abby had taken to their runt wings and grabbed onto the stick. Now they had stripped him of it. They were as vocal as before, but it was no longer in outrage, it was gleeful.
Ethan looked back to the hound that wasted no time in taking advantage of the opportunity gifted by the deformed creatures. It launched itself at Ethan. Who in turn reached out to intercept the hound. Ethan stood no chance when its full weight landed on him. He went to the ground. Whereas before the hound had bitten once and then released. Such charity was absent. It struck. Its teeth planting themselves in his shoulder, clamping down hard. Ethan screamed and heard the bone that made up his shoulder cave in with a crunch. He looked frantically to the side and saw the four small humanoids dancing as the hound did its worst.
The hound opened its maw, only long enough to switch its bite deeper into the nook where shoulder met neck. It closed its jaws again, this time the teeth finding more throat than shoulder.
Ethan couldn't scream.
He could taste blood in his mouth. He began to choke on it. The hound's bite prevented inhalation. All that came from his mouth was blood. He could hear the wretched song of the small folk as everything faded from grey to midnight.
The hound held Ethan in that embrace long past the time he died.
Abby awoke with the kind of headache she usually only had after a night out on the drink. She looked to the side and saw the state of the tent. It looked as though they'd been burglarised. "Ethan?" she asked, spotting that his sleeping bag was empty. She looked towards the front of the tent and saw the large rift in the canvas. Fear began to swell within her. She realised she wasn't wearing a top and pulled Ethan's sleeping bag over herself. There was a twinge of pain as the fabric rode over her breasts. They were sometimes tender from breastfeeding her little one. This morning though it felt as though she'd fed the five thousand. She looked down and saw the bruising over them and that the nipples were raw. She tried to recall the previous night. They'd made love but it hadn't been rough. She couldn't remember anything after that.
She dressed and ventured out of the tent. All there was to see was the tumbledown wall and nothing else.
"Ethan!" Abby shouted for all she was worth.
Abby sat in the office with her hands wrapped around a hot cup of coffee. They'd sent out the ground team and the helicopter team. The police had been called due to the ruined tent and the blood that she'd found and were being dropped off at their campsite.
The radio operator was watching her warily as he liaised with both teams.
"Nothing? Over" He asked.
"Visibility is at ninety-five percent and we can't spot anything. We're gonna do a loop five miles to the north and circle back. Over."
Abby had been listening. "No sign of him?" She asked, even though she'd heard as much.
The man shook his head. He looked to be heading into retirement with his white hair. His face bore the stains of a lifetime out in the elements, more leather than anything. "Ask you a question?"
"Sure." Abby said.
"It's a little personal."
"Okay." Her eyes narrowed.
"Wondering how I can put this delicately. Are you lactating?"
"What?" Her eyes widened.
"I mean, breastfeeding?"
"I know what it means, why'd you need to know?"
"Are you in discomfort this morning?" He looked to be in discomfort at asking such questions.
Abby looked outraged for a moment, but it was true, she was both those things. She replied, "Yes."
The radio operator got up and walked over to one of the windows. "The Cu Sith is back."
The radioman turned, knowing he'd said too much but couldn't help himself. "A hound, a legend, whatever you want to call it." He moved back to his desk and picked up the radio. "Come in St. Bernard. Over"
A couple of seconds went by before. "I hear you base, what's up? Over"
"I need you to return to base. We need to get the woman back to the lowland. Over"
"Is she ill? Over"
"Then it'll have to wait. There's another half-hour of light left, we're not gonna waste it. Over."
"Loud 'n' clear. Over" The radioman rubbed a hand over his brow. He made for the door and bolted it. He looked at the windows.
"What's the matter?" Abby asked.
The radioman dug out the flare gun and kept it in his grip. He turned to her. "It has mouths to feed."
"I'm not following."
"The Cu Sith will be back for you, it has mouths to feed."
Abby didn't get to ask another question for the noise of three loud barks sounded from the door and the radioman crossed his chest and said a prayer.