“The Cold Autumn Sky” by Dominic LeRose


Jimmy Juliano

Wisconsin, 1850

Some said it was similar to a kind of wolf. Or maybe even a big bear. I never understood the tales they of told of this beast. “Big, long claws, sharper than blades, fangs likes daggers, eyes the color of death.” I always thought the story of the beast as some tale used to scare the hell out of kids like me when I was younger. Never did I know that I’d be the one to see it after all these years.

It was a Wednesday. I was traveling through the hills of my rural Midwestern town on the back of my brown horse to camp for the rest of the week when I stumbled upon a trickling waterfall. I sat down on a rock overlooking it, the sound of the moving liquid music to my ears. The leaves had been turning already, most of the trees a bright red or a golden yellow. The sky was grey, cold and bitter, the way I always liked it. A grey sky meant you could see everything.

I walked through the woods, each step making a crunching sound that could be heard miles away.  I walked for hours, trying to enjoy the beautiful fall day, until a gruesome scene caught my eye. Not a deer, not a horse, but an elk, a cow, her guts ripped from her stomach, her face devoured, claw marks pierced into her flesh. Nothing inside of her was left. It must have been a pack of grey wolves, I thought, or she may have died naturally, coyotes getting to her after she fell. They said this beast could take down any creature in our lands. The more I denied the culprit, the more the fear tingled inside my soul.

The wind, blowing harder than anything I’ve ever seen, danced with the trees, creating a ferocious ensemble that was the music of demons. I hopped off my horse, trying to make out my location. The colorful trees drifted back and forth, rapidly shaking, losing some of their leaves. I made it to an open field, the grass a light yellow, perfect for farming. No cows, no horses, not even a few clucking chickens claimed this field. It was barren, not a creature in sight. Despite my isolation, I felt as if I were stalked. Paranoia, I thought, trying to deny my apprehensions. I kept on denying, walking normally until a sound echoed throughout the woods. Not a wolf howl, not a bear’s roar—the worst sound man could hear. I grabbed my rifle, my hand steady on the grip, waiting to for the beast to appear. The beast roared again, this time sounding like a wolf whose foot was stuck in a trap. My horse ran off into the woods, squealing before rushing away. The horrid sound faded, until it appeared again, closer than ever.

I turned in fear towards the sound of the last roar at the southern tip of the field. My heart was beating faster than an arrow flying through the air. I stood there, alone in the field, before deciding to take off. I ran faster than ever, down the golden field, through the short grass. My belongings jiggled on my side, making it harder to move quickly. I turned my head around to see if I was being followed. Nothing. I soon made it deep into the other side of the woods, the field now in my past. But my fear followed. It was turning darker, the sky no longer light grey, but a deep charcoal. I pondered where to go next, realizing how lost I was.

I found a large tree with a giant opening above its roots. It was the work of a lightning bolt, providing shelter for dozens of bugs and mice. Not wanting to venture out until morning, I lay inside with a drizzle dripping on my face, the sounds of rain hitting the leaves, a peaceful distraction to my fear. I told myself how foolish I was to come here, to try and tackle my fears, to prove to everyone I wasn’t afraid of any rumoured beast known to scare fools like me.

I awoke, amazed I was alive and not slaughtered in my sleep. I got up, the sky still dark from the previous night. My jacket was wet, brown leaves sticking like magnets on my clothes. I didn’t know where I was—a lost man in the woods, a hound hunting him, drawing his every scent. I realized my fate would be determined that day, an array of sharp fangs ripping through and piercing my flesh. Or perhaps not. I held my cross tightly around my neck, asking the Lord to protect me, to prevent this demon from making a feast out of me. I suddenly felt a rush of hope, wondering if I’d be able to withstand this monster. A howl echoed in the distance.

I ran quickly away from the direction of the howl. The sound was even more terrifying than the ones from the previous night. I rushed faster than ever, slipping down a slope of wet leaves. I quickly got back up. I stopped to revive my energy, to make out where this animal was. I soon found him. A tall dark figure, with blackish hair, standing on the top of the slope with his long claws revealed. I pulled for my rifle. My heart sank. I realized I had dropped it while I had been rushing through the woods. I glared up at the beast, his yellow eyes glaring back at me, their color luminous against the dark sky. He howled. I sank to my knees. Something drew his attention. He quickly leaped down the other end of the slope into the woods. He howled one last time, his voice echoing throughout the land. I got back up from my knees and wandered away, the autumn sky above me, cold and dark.