Miles’ body convulsed; his eyes rolled backwards into his skull as he shook.
“Miles!” cried Alyson. “Miles!”
Tears began to stream down her cheeks as his body temperature rose so high his skin was burned the touch. A choking sound escaped from his mouth before Alyson stuck her fingers inside to keep him from swallowing his tongue.
Over and over she called out his name, but inside Miles’ head his sister’s voice was nowhere to be heard. He was now far away from that plane of existence.
When he opened his eyes, rain was beating down on him, falling in thick sheets that soaked him instantly to the bone. Miles stood and looked down at the rocky ground upon which he was standing. He gazed down at his arms. They seemed longer, thicker. He squeezed his hands into fists, hearing his joints crackle like dry firewood. They were stiff, like the rest of his body. From the bottom of his peripheral vision, he saw something on his face—just above his lip—and quickly tried to brush it away. But his fingers found bristles—whiskers. He reached again, more carefully this time, to find a full moustache under his nose, and then a thick beard on his face.
Instinctively, his hand went toward his head. His hair was saturated with rainwater, and fell just below his shoulder. He could feel creases in his damp skin. He had grown older somehow.
Ten years? Twenty years? Inside his head were none of the memories that would fill that gap. It was as if he had only aged physically.
And as he marveled at his own body, it was the voice in his mind—Move! Now!—that saved him. Quickly, he bent forward at the waist as the hammer-like blow missed him by less than an inch.
Miles twisted around to his left—the opposite direction from which the fist came. He spotted his attacker: the same darkened figure that approached him inside the killing field. It had the silhouette of a man, but with eyes that appeared veils to orange flames—like looking through the portal of a furnace door.
The heat that radiated from the dark figure’s caused the rain to turn into blankets of steam.
Though Miles had moved fast enough to avoid the first blow, he wasn’t so lucky with the second. The other fist of the dark figure crashed into Miles’s chest—hitting him with the force of a falling boulder—and he flew backwards through the air, landing on his neck and shoulders, skidding across the wet and hardened ground until he came to a stop twenty-feet away.
Miles rushed to catch his breath, struggling. As he looked up he could see the dark figure coming toward him, its body looming large as an oak tree, its piercing and orange eyes glaring down at him meaning to—
Obliterate me, Miles thought. With its each step, the ground literally shook. Miles tried to scramble backwards, opening an old wound—the cut on his hand from the night of his father’s death. And, once again, there came a blinding, growing light.
As it had then, a vision came to Miles—endless images flashing by his eyes, as if time were rocketing past while he was standing still. There was flame and smoke; an earth scorched; the sky opening. A battle of darkness and light.
There, before Miles, was his father, a pistol pressed to his temple.
“I’m not the Coyote,” William said. “You are. And you will be victorious.”
And with a steady hand, he pulled the trigger.
Miles screamed, and from the bleeding cut in his hand came a light more luminous than a thousand candles, penetrating the seemingly endless night with overwhelming day.
The figure swung his head around away from the source, as if he was struck in the face. But Miles didn’t notice, for he was looking at the light’s periphery.
There were hundreds and hundreds of yellow eyes, deep-set pairs surrounding him in a giant circle. Watching every move. Watching this—
Battle, Miles thought. That’s what it was, he realized. From the edge of the light came—a cacophony of whispers.
Miles then understood. They were the voices of the dead. He understood.
The thousands of Native Americans sacrificing their captives and young; the slaughter of the entire traveling party of the Majestyk—including his mother and brother.
Their blood, which had soaked into the ground, called out to him because it was their battle he was being summoned to fight.
Over who controls Death itself, the voices told him.
Death had never been an independent entity, but served at the whim of its master, taking as few or as many from the mortal plane as the master saw fit. Satiating that hunger only so much as the master needed. For centuries, the Indians knew the fight for control of the realm of death had fallen between the spirit of the Wolf and the spirit of the Coyote. That every several decades, they would come together and renew their blood feud.
And though Miles was unsure how this fit into the apocalyptic visions his father had suffered, he was certain they did—and what was to become of him on this battleground in the pouring rain would potentially be another step towards the end of mankind.
The blinding light faded from his hand, plunging the yellow-eyed observers back into eternal night. The darkened figure, unhindered, came toward Miles once again.
“I’m the Coyote. I will be victorious,” he said in a whisper, feeling the ground shake with each coming step of The Wolf.
“Miles! Miles!” Alyson called out as she cradled Miles’s seemingly lifeless body and sobbed.
On the ground, no more than a foot away, she spotted her father’s eye, which Miles kept with him at all times. It was the twin to the one that she shunned because she could see what was within the cursed orb.
When she reached down and closed her fingers around it, the feeling in her chest was like a clap of thunder. Immediately she could feel the energy coming from his body, like balls of heat lightning erupting all around them. Tremors began in Miles's legs, growing from spasm into full-blown shakes. Alyson held his body as tightly as possible to prevent him from hurting himself.
“Miles!” she called again, still seeing no response.
Though his mind and spirit were far away, he was aware of her presence even as the darkened figure neared. He knew she would be his only chance. Using all of his concentration, he was able to summon his disconnected body, broke from Alyson's grip, and sat bolt upright. His eyeballs rolled back, showing nothing but blood vessels and shock white.
She heard his voice—distant, as if telegraphed.
“Take the eye to Father Henri. Run!”
Miles’s body fell limp again.
She didn’t hesitate. Eye already in hand, she tore through the woods along the pathways that would soon fall dark with the setting sun.
As her legs started to cramp her lungs burn, she could feel something behind her, trailing not too far behind in the woods.
Something that Alyson knew had a hungry, sharp maw.
She kept moving, despite her body’s aches.
It burns, she thought, although knowing it would be much worse if whatever was following actually caught up.
Run! Don't stop! Her mind cried out as she thought of her brother Miles and the danger he had put himself into.
Up ahead there was a rustling in the woods. Alyson stopped dead in her tracks.
Surrounded, she thought, trying to figure out a way to escape. Stepping out where she could be seen came a familiar figure.
“Odile!” Alyson shrieked, running toward her friend. Odile, at first equally excited, quickly frightened.
Behind Alyson, she could see clearly what Alyson felt..
Hundreds of yellow eyes, gleaming in the darkness, closing the distance.
Fear overcame Odile; no longer could her brain process that it was Alyson, the same dear friend who she had run into the woods to find standing in front of her, needing help. Instead, all that remained was a most primal urge to flee. She turned on her heels.
But the charging creatures came swiftly. The coyotes emerged from the woods, rushing past Alyson, as if she was a rock in the middle of a stream, and descended upon Odile.
There was no scream; their teeth quickly silenced Odile and flayed the flesh from her body.
Alyson cupped both hands over her mouth to suppress the swelling shriek. She did not want to attract their attention. But as quickly as they came, the coyotes were gone into the woods, leaving behind nothing of Odile but her bloodied bone, hair, and gristle.
As the murderous beasts fled, the last to leave turned back and looked at Alyson, meeting her gaze with its own yellow eyes, before following the rest of the pack into the woods.
Oh no. They’re heading toward the settlement, she thought
Miles, beaten, teetered with his head over the edge of a crack in the earth, a crevasse going down into a bottomless void. The heel of the Wolf pressed down on his throat, choking the life out of him. Blood dripped from the corner of his mouth, down his cheek, and into the pit.
All at once, Miles felt the strength come back into his arms. He grabbed the Wolf’s foot with both hands and reveled in the surprise on his attacker’s face.
As he sat at the one table in his room, lit only by a single candle, Father Henri paged through his thumb-worn Bible. Though it not anything he was willing to share with the others, he had been growing evermore concerned. It began when they arrived here—and increased dramatically upon the unexpected arrival of the boy and his sister some seven years ago.
He had never expected to live to see a grey beard, but Father Henri now felt that what he ultimately feared was finally upon him, catching him very unprepared. He had to warn the others immediately—but how do you provision someone for something like this?
And there, as he turned the page, he found it: Revelation 18:08
Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
Suddenly, he felt a chill run through his body. He closed the book and placed it before him. Coming from the woods outside: the pounding of hundreds of feet, getting closer.
As he arose, he took his crucifix from around his neck and kissed it, before opening the door. He could see them rushing toward him—toward the settlement—their yellow eyes and sharp teeth visible in the moonlight.
And in the air, it was growing louder, the last sound he would ever hear: the sound of countless voices hushed into a whisper.
We shall live in His house...
We shall live in His name...