“Try That Again” – A Short Story by Andrew Williford

The fire blazed in the darkness. The only other light in the building was that of the moon peaking through the hole in the wall. The edifice was in shambles. But William decided that it was safer than the others on the block, for the night at least. The rat was almost done. William’s stomach was still grumbling, and the smell of cooking meat just added fuel to the fire. He was lucky to come across this. It was better for him to save the cans for later. His mouth watered as he kept his eyes trained on his meal-to-be. After weeks of gunfire, bombs, and frightened screams invading his ears, it was nice to have a moment where the only sound was the crackling of flames. That is, until the growl.

            William’s eyes darted toward the hole. Instead of an empty street covered in bullet casings, he saw a beast shrouded in shadow. The golden eyes glowed in the nearly pitch black room as it drew closer. William couldn’t tell if it was a large dog or a small wolf. Either way, it was just as hungry as him.

            “Easy, easy there,” he whispered to it as it got close enough to the fire for the flames to illuminate its bared teeth. “Take it easy,” he said as his hand reached slowly for his spear. “This isn’t for you. That’s my food.” The growl morphed into a bark as it snapped its jaws at him, and then into a snarl as its lips quivered in fury. William didn’t flinch. He couldn’t show weakness. His fingers wrapped around the spear.

            The beast turned its glowing eyes to the rat. “Hey!” William shouted, creating an echo as he lunged forward. The beast dodged the spear and latched onto William’s hand. He screamed in pain, but only briefly. His hand felt like those jaws were crushing it. He grabbed the upper jaw, desperately trying to pry it off his numbing hand. It wouldn’t budge, so he attacked. He put his free hand on its head and shoved his thumb into its glowing socket. The squishing of the eyeball lead to a high-pitched whine as it let go of his hand and drew back, whimpering. William looked briefly at his hand, blood pouring out of fleshy holes in his skin. It didn’t discourage him. It only infuriated him. He snarled back at the now one-eyed beast. William reached down with his free hand to grab a stick from the fire.

            “Okay, asshole,” he muttered under his breath, torch in one hand and spear in the other. “Let’s try that again.”

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