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The Mansion And The Pond

the mansion and the pond
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Estimated reading time — 36 minutes

To begin, I do not condone any actions that I myself do not directly commit while working here at The Agency. My peers, superiors, and comrades are responsible for what they do. Not that I still don’t feel bad. There is plenty of collateral damage that comes with this job.

My name is Isabella. Isabella Davis. I’m special ops, trained for the past six years and I’ve been out on the field more than my fair share. Once my husband was brutally murdered, I saw no point in continuing to try and live life normally. It just felt… Well, wrong. Far too different without him.

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But my Agency doesn’t deal with your average threats. No, not at all. We deal with the things that go bump in the night, the creatures from hell itself. The things you see in your room during sleep paralysis or while you’re out walking alone at midnight.

I do pretty well with a gun and my fists. What I lack in strength, I make up for in strategy. Make of that what you will, but that’s what you need to know. There’s way more classified information I could put out there, but I’d rather not. I’m already risking my life telling you the following, no need to up the ante when it’s not necessary.

I’m stationed at Site 12, one of our facilities. And, today we had brought in a witness. A witness who had seen what was going down at what would soon become our mission location that night.

I had walked into one of the interrogation rooms, it was whiter than snow and sterilized to all hell. Just like pretty much every single room in this facility. Especially the labs.

The witness himself was a young man, probably no older than his mid-twenties, his hair long, looking rather unkempt and his clothes covered in dirt and forest debris. But they were oddly bright colors, I spotted a pretty diverse set of them, but there wasn’t, however, a single piece of black or grey item of clothing on him.

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The Director of Operations Ted Bowser was in there, along with Doctor West. The head of the Science Division around here and probably the one with the most authority next to Ted. They would constantly go back and forth about who has jurisdiction over what, it used to become quite the headache, but I’ve learned to tune it out.

“They were like these freakin’ tree people! I tried to get into the mansion but they attacked and I ran like crazy, I just barely got out.” The witness goes on. Giving me a glance as I take my place behind Doctor West. It was subtle, yet I could see almost malice behind it. Despite his claims and dirty clothes, he still looked unharmed, no cuts, bruises, or lacerations of any kind.

“What were you doing near the mansion in the first place you idiot?” Grills Ted, prompting a wide-eyed response from the witness.

“I was uh… Trespassing. I’m an urban explorer.” The witness replies in a rather defeated tone.

“Sounds like you got what you deserved for being a moron.” Doctor West follows up. “Next time use your brain and not your adrenaline junkie instincts.”

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“I was just trying to have fun alright! It’s not like I was hurting anybody.”

I still say nothing, my stomach beginning to churn as I know what was soon to come. Thank god I wasn’t the one who had to carry it out. Even with all the things I’ve done over the years, I didn’t have the cold heart for it.

The witness goes on to describe the creatures in further detail, causing both Ted and West to smile, not in gratitude. No, it was a sinister smile of deceit you’d see on the face of a serial killer right before imminent death.

“Well, I think that’s about all we need to hear.” Doctor West announces, closing up a binder filled to the brim with papers as she stands up.

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Ted then motions for the agent on the opposite side of the room from me to step forward. Standing behind the witness who was still sitting down in the chair, unaware of what was happening behind him.

The agent then retrieves a pistol from the front of his weapons belt. Putting it to the back of the witness’ head and then firing. Blowing his brains out and causing him to slump forward in the chair as blood pours from the bullet hole in his forehead.

West is of course unbothered, she walks to exit the room. Not even turning around to say.

“Make sure we get the clean-up crew in here before that blood dries.”

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This was standard procedure, as to why we couldn’t just find another method… I don’t know why. But I definitely don’t agree with it. But someone of my clearance level trying to give orders would not end well. There isn’t any room for questions around here, no matter who you are.

After West is out of the room, a few guys in grey t-shirts and jeans walk in to retrieve the body. Two of them carrying him out and the others bringing in buckets of bleach and other chemicals to begin cleaning.

Ted walks up, adjusting the tie of his suit nonchalantly before giving both me and the other agent a nod.

“I’m gonna have a team sent to that mansion tonight. I want both of you on it. So the two of you should take a trip to the weapons room and gear up. You’ll be out of here in the next few hours after I find another four agents to join you. Make sure to bring The Aquatic Scanners with you.”

Ted then backs up a bit, inches away from the door before the agent speaks up. His voice hoarse with a low rasp. As if he were a veteran cigarette smoker.

“We bringin 16A with us?”

“No, he won’t be necessary for this operation, you guys have the gear to take this on. Just don’t screw up and die, cause I’m not gonna be the one going through the process of making up complicated lies while writing to your families, I’m tired of doing that and sending in reinforcements all the time.”

Ted then huffs apathetically and marches, leaving only the agent, the cleaning crew, and I left in there. All in all, I kill all the time. Monsters, malicious creatures, and even disdainful humans. But I’ve never slaughtered innocents before, so it still gets to me every time I see it. But as I’ve said, I don’t have any power to change it.

So I headed over to the weapons room, grabbed night vision goggles, an assault rifle with armor-piercing round magazines, a zoomed-in scope for said rifle, and a small flamethrower as well. One where you didn’t need to carry a huge tank on your back for fuel.

It was all in the thrower itself. Although this particular model was still in the prototype stage. Body armor and protective gear were already mandatory on these missions, so they would be given to me regardless.

Just for good measure, I stuffed a couple of grenades and an Ecto-Magnet in my weapons belt. Satisfied with how armed I quickly became, I made my way over to the briefing room and sat through one of the rather pointless info-dumps I had many times before. As weird as it may sound.

After we finished with the strenuous briefing, we start loading the six-man team into the transport truck. I was fine, actually enjoying the ride, other than one of the male agents attempting to hit on me of course. But it wasn’t anything too bad. I tried not to make a big deal out of things that didn’t matter in the long run.

“So we’re going after tree people now huh?” The agent furthest from the doors asks rhetorically while the truck is thrashed upwards slightly, indicating the current road we were on was bumpy. He then lights a cigarette, smoking it as he darts his eyes toward the floor.

“Can’t believe the Director is wasting our time with crap like this, I didn’t join to shoot moving pine needles.” One replies. Spitting on the floor of the truck.

“You guys seriously want a harder job?” I speak up in a slightly teasing manner. “Should we face Dracula and his minions instead?”

The agent lighting the cigarette slowly turns his head. Not hiding his irritation at my comedic probing.

“Who asked you to talk Bella?” He chuckles. “Cause I don’t remember.”

“Watch it.” I bark back. “I was just trying to lighten the mood, no need to be a dick.”

“Hey!” The one closest to the trailer doors hollers, standing up and giving us a scolding look as if we were children acting up at someone else’s house. “We’re almost at the location, so everyone put your big boy pants on and stop acting like a bunch of pansies.”

That wanna-be father of everyone was Dave, Dave is usually the guy in charge during these missions, as he was the one that had survived more experiences than the rest of us all put together. And I admired his combative prowess, but never really hung around him personally.

But after a bit more conversation and verbal comradery, the truck had stopped. No more bumps or bouncing. Indicating we had arrived.

“Alright, everybody radio into the Director and let him know we’re here. Mandatory headcount.”

I grab my radio, pushing the button on the side.

“Agent Bella reporting presence.”

The others do the same, which then leads to us stepping outside of the truck and hiking toward the mansion.

It was a pine tree forest, my favorite kind. I had a sort of an odd obsession with them when I was a little girl. But something was strange about this one, in particular, something eerie.

The silence was uncanny, but this was common. If this was the work of cryptids, then it was likely there weren’t very many people in the area to begin with. Meaning it made our jobs that much easier.

The mansion itself wasn’t actually very deep in the forest, only about half a mile. But still far enough away from other structures to be decently isolated. Unseen by any drivers on the highway, that’s what we were told at least.

I focus my attention in front of me, there is what I can only describe as a large pond, but it was more like a small lake. A murky pond between us and the mansion. Only a thin bridge leading across, meaning we’d have to walk in a single file line judging by the width.

Some of the pine trees had fallen into the water, half of their trunk length sticking out from the surface while the other half was submerged.

But that wasn’t because the water was shallow, no far from it. From what I saw anyway. Plus, the terrain on the sides of the pond was sharp, with many pointy rocks sticking out of the ground. So the idea of going around was out of the question. Not without some sort of air vehicle, which we currently didn’t have.

“Goggles off,” Dave orders the rest of us. “The lights are on inside the mansion, don’t wanna mess your eyes up.”

“I really feel like they should’ve given us a helicopter for this one,” Lenard interjects. Lenard, who was often the most friendly member of these teams, always tried his best to cheer everyone else up despite the circumstances.

“No.” Came Dave’s rebuttal. “They’re not wasting all that fuel just so we can cross a dang pond.”

He was right about both. looking at the mansion, the lights were on inside it. Despite the fact, no one was supposed to have lived there for over a decade. The manor itself was beautiful, a slick, brick finish with an elegant black stone roof. It had to be six times the size of your average middle-class house. But that was only the outside.

But everything around it screamed wrong, the pine trees closest to the structure didn’t have any needles on them. They were simply bare. Which was completely unnatural. Then again, natural isn’t our job.

Oh and about the small lake, it wasn’t just half-submerged pine trees that had fallen over into the water, but I spotted some floating wood pallets and other items. Grass, some weeds, etc. The surface itself was calm, not a single wave traveling along. But it felt too calm.

“Only a few should go at first just to test it,” I suggested. “The bridge looks pretty unstable.”

“That’s the best idea I’ve heard all day,” Dave compliments, turning to acknowledge the rest of the team. “You all heard the lady right?”

The other agents all nod their heads after looking at Dave.

“Uh sir, do we have any idea how deep this pond might be?” The agent to my left asks. “Because I’m looking at my Aquatic Scanner and it’s malfunctioning.” He informs, having his wrist pointed over the surface of the water as he looked down.

Every one of us recoil. Aquatic Scanners were devices a team of our most talented scientists invented. Doctor West being one of them. They were designed to be able to instantly calculate the depth of any body of water up to forty thousand feet. Which is deeper than any known part of the ocean. So you can imagine what the implication is.

“That’s impossible.” Said Lenard. The agent furthest in the back. “How can a pond be deeper than the Mariana Trench.”

“We literally have killed fire-breathing demons who rip people’s skin off, this is weird but not surprising,” Dave adds.

“16A killed him, not you,” Lenard comments sarcastically to the dismay of Dave.

“Yeah yeah yeah whatever.” Dave groans. Waving Lenard off with his right.

The pond continued to sit there quietly in front of all of us. The green, murkiness of the water making it appear as if it belonged more in a swamp rather than in the middle of a pine forest.

“Alright, three on the bridge at a time. Lenard, Bella, and I will go first.” Dave says rather sternly, prompting no arguments from anyone.

I turn the safety of my rifle off. Pulling out my own Aquatic Scanner to make sure the phenomena was true, and it gave me the same result as the other agent’s. The water was too deep for it to calculate. Maybe even endlessly so. As to how the physics on that worked, I was at a total loss.

We get on the thin bridge, Dave in front, Lenard in the middle, and me in the back. The boards themselves feel loose, rotting, and threatening to collapse under our feet. It was lucky we had decided not to all go at once, considering how much the bridge swayed from just us three.

“Looks like the coast is clear so far!” Dave hollers out. “But don’t get too comfortable.” This was a bit off-putting on my end, seen as I didn’t want him making too much noise and grabbing the attention of whatever was in the water below.

I know for sure I didn’t, because something created a ripple in the murky water. The first movement I had seen from it since we had arrived. Which caused the boards floating on the water to come crashing against the bridge.

The agents back on the land point their rifles at the water. Keeping the barrels trained on the surface in case anything emerged from below. I was on edge, feeling my grip tighten on my trigger. Anticipation like this was all too common on these missions.

We were more than halfway when another ripple happens, this time on the left half of the water. Sending two floating boards slamming up against the bridge.

“There’s definitely something in there, think it’s Cthulhu?” Lenard jokes, attempting to lighten the mood.

I appreciate this, as it was definitely the comedy relief I needed. Especially as a third ripple appears. But this one was far more visible than the first two, becoming more of a splash and foaming a sizable portion of the water.

“Just keep going, the closer we get to the other side the better.” Dave signals, waving his hand forward at Lenard and me.

After a couple more minutes of cautious walking, we do eventually make it to the other side unharmed by whatever is lurking in the massive pond below. The three of us turn to face the agents on the opposite end of the bridge.

Instead of yelling and alerting whatever creature was in the water. Dave utilizes his radio to communicate with the other agents. Telling them to not come across until we figure out what we’re dealing with.

“What? No, we shouldn’t be wasting time. It’s probably just a big gator or something.”

There’s always gotta be that guy, the stubborn one, disobeying out of sheer arrogance, and beginning to cross the bridge. But quickly turned right back around when one of the half-submerged pine trees was suddenly yanked beneath the surface entirely. As if something had grabbed and pulled it down with all its might, like a warning of some sort.

“Okay… I’m starting to think that Cthulhu comment wasn’t so inaccurate.” Dave said, bumping Lenard on the shoulder.

“You guys have an odd way of cracking jokes about this,” I say with a straight face, still looking down my scope as I scan the pond surface. I know I know, it seemed dismissive on the surface, but deep down I found it amusing.

“We gotta draw it out.” Lenard proposes. Then pulling the trigger of his rifle and firing a few rounds at the surface of the water. Causing a rapid pattern of small splashes as the bullets impact the surface.

His idea works, a few seconds later, some bubbles travel up and pop at the top of the water. Indicating that something was coming, something big. Considering the number of bubbles there actually were. They also looked rather large individually.

Everyone readied their weapons, all getting into the proper stance as we stood as still as statues while concentrating on the potential spot of the target.

Once again, silence for several seconds straight. No bubbles, no ripples, and no splashes. I couldn’t tell if this entity was trying to deceive us or not, but it definitely seemed intelligent. Trying to make us think it would do one thing while it actually did another.

Then, without warning. The mysterious beast explodes up from beneath the surface and near where Lenard, Dave, and I were all standing. Every single one of us open fires immediately, but the thing is. It’s only visible for a few short and swift seconds. Disappearing just as fast as it had emerged.

“Oh god!” Lenard practically screams like a schoolgirl, pointing to something behind me.

I hesitate when turning around, already in fear of what might’ve been there. But in this case, it was what wasn’t there.

Dave was gone, the upper half of his body completely torn from away from the hips up. His stomach, arms, legs, neck, and head are all gone. Blood spilling and squirting out from his remaining half. Tendons, muscle, and a variety of tissue all piling up in a scarlet-colored mess right near the water.

“Jesus!” I step back. Walking further away from the water in order to avoid meeting the same fate as Dave. His entire career, all those missions, all that training, all those monsters killed, all of it snuffed out almost instantaneously. Right in front of our very eyes.

I hadn’t gotten a good look at the thing, I just know I gave it everything I had for the couple of short seconds it was out of its elements. But from what I gathered, the creature was at least a dark purple color, and I remember seeing a lot of white-colored spikes as well, but that was about it.

“This is team X4.” Lenard radios in. “Agent Dave is deceased. I repeat, Dave is dead. Requesting more orders.”

Ted’s voice comes through the radio seconds after Lenard lets go of the button. I genuinely couldn’t tell if he was mildly angry or simply detached from the selected tone he had used this time. It’s always hard to tell with him.

“Keep pressing on, that’s why I sent six of you. Don’t be a bunch of cowards all of a sudden, you all just took down a group of Wendigos last week remember? This shouldn’t be an issue.” Ted responds rather apathetically, not even asking how it is that Dave had died.

Before I can add in a comment of my own to Ted’s response. I abruptly hear something bubble up to the surface of the water, the same spot where Dave had been presumably dragged underneath. Still some water foaming in the sizable space. Probably about a few square feet from just looking with the naked eye.

It was… Dave’s bones, they were floating. The ones from his rib cage to his skull anyway. They had been stripped of all his flesh and muscle tissue in what was only a passing of about a minute’s worth of time. But of course, bones don’t float. They’re denser than water, so we shouldn’t have been able to see them in the first place.

“What the hell? Why is this water acting like it’s acid or something?” Lenard questions before grabbing a nearby stick with decent length to it. Holding one end with both hands and slowly putting the other end inside the water in order to test if what he pondered was true.

The stick breaks the surface, we don’t see any unnatural bubbling or movement. Not at first at least. The stick seems to be fine, all intact from the tiny amount I could see underneath the water. A couple of inches or so.

Our night vision goggles were not equipped for underwater use, not the versions we were currently wearing anyway. So we didn’t have many options when it came to getting a better glimpse of the creature while it was down there. We’d have to wait for it to surface again so we could kill it.

This massive pond was an abyss, an abyss that stared right back at me as I stared at it. I could feel the murky liquid piercing its way past my eyes and into my soul the more I looked at it. It was almost trance-like.

This turned out to be the worst timing as far as staring at it because the creature that had killed Dave burst back up above the surface. This time for a longer period, allowing me to get a good look at the details of its appearance as we opened fire on it.

It was long, it had to be well over thirty feet in just length alone from what I could estimate. Probably around seven feet in width as well. Its skin was a dark, African purple violet. Its back, or what I had assumed to be its back anyway, was absolutely covered in these foot, to foot and a half-long spikes. A clear, snow-white hue at the very tip of each one.

Its teeth were in the shapes of pizza cutters, a sunlike-yellow color to them. Most of which were stained with blood, the blood of what was obviously Dave. All of them placed in a mouth that looked as if it could swallow an entire sedan whole.

I counted eight eyes that were sitting just above its mouth. All of them completely white, no pupils or irises. Our bullets did work as we fired on the creature, its blood the same shade of purple as its flesh. But it did the smart thing, diving back into the water after it had taken enough damage.

But right after it disappeared in the depths, there was no trace of its blood or wounds. I could’ve sworn that I shot one of its spikes off its back. Part of me was thinking that this strange water had healing properties, and submerging the wound healed it. As to whether or not this would work on humans was questionable. But considering what happened to Dave, I’ll have to settle on no.

The most likely scenario is that the water only possessed healing properties for the creature that lived inside it. I mean, it seemed to be a carnivore, so it sort of made sense.

For now, we’d definitely have to find another solution, because if that was all true. It basically meant we were wasting our ammo on shooting this creature in the first place.

“How are we supposed to kill this thing!” The agents shout from the other side of the bridge, to which I respond with an annoyed glare for doing so instead of just using their radios.

I suddenly remembered that I had brought some grenades with me. I turn over to Lenard who was still watching the pond with a mesmerized expression on his face. I didn’t blame him though.

But then I shift my eyes over to the east end of the pond. The furthest part away from us. A gargantuan splash grabbing my attention and my fellow agents as well. We naturally shift our attention over to that side of the pond.

The pine tree that had been snatched and previously yanked underwater area came hurling out of the pond at a ridiculous speed, flying high through the air before dropping down and landing on top of the spiked rocks and having its trunk impaled.

I see an area in the water circling around and then beginning to move to the west side of the pond. The creature was now swimming close to the surface, but still just deep enough to be kept directly out of sight.

The wave comes to an abrupt stop, signaling the creature had dived further down. That’s what we had thought anyway. Until a blaring voice booms out from the pond. Seemingly coming from every inch of the surface itself.

“Leave my home!” It bellows, shaking the ground with its bass alone. It wasn’t just anger, but rage. Pure unbridled rage. But this wasn’t cold malice, it sounded almost emotional, distressed, grief-ridden if you will.

“You can speak?” I say, attempting to calm the creature. “Why did you kill our friend? Do you want all of us dead?”

“You’re those humans, the ones who slaughtered and enslaved my mother!” It thunders, once again all of us nearly falling over from the sound waves piercing through the earth itself. “I had to kill her with no choice left. Her mind had been warped beyond recognition.”

I stopped, not having any recollection of being here or killing a creature that looked anything like the purple aquatic slug. Which prompts me to put my grenade away.

I asked the others, they were clueless as well. So then I radioed at Ted, describing the creature as detailed as I possibly could. He scanned through the records, of course making sure to call me an idiot before he told me that we had no recording of the extermination of a creature like that.

“We didn’t enslave or kill your mother!” I yell back. “What are you trying to say?”

There is a short chapter of silence before the creature replies, still keeping himself hidden under the water.

“You wear their color, the black. I want the one with the long hair!”

Of course, all of us have no idea what it is he’s talking about. Confused looks being passed around like alcohol between the remaining five of us.

This creature only appeared to be defending his home, which resonated with me personally. Not that I still wasn’t slightly shaken up at such a sudden and gruesome execution. But I know doing this could prevent more unnecessary bloodshed.

“Why are we even talking to this thing!” An agent screams from across the bridge. “We need to blow it sky-high!” He yelled before retrieving a grenade launcher strapped to his back.

“No no, wait!” I shout back, holding out a hand for him to cease his activity. But regardless of my commands he kept it pointed at the water without firing.

“The man who killed and enslaved your mother, did he have a name? Can you remember it?”

Once again, a couple seconds of complete silence pass before a few dozen bubbles pop at the surface of the water.

“Ubel.” The beast utters, his voice meeker compared to before.

Ubel, a name I hadn’t recognized nor ever heard before. But it did sound German, that was about the extent of my knowledge.

“Can you show yourself?” I question. “Surface again?”

The creature doesn’t respond verbally, instead, the bubbles only increase in size and numbers, I take a few steps back, waiting for the large, inevitable splash that would come with his third emergence.

The agent who had pulled the grenade launcher readied it. Disregarding my attempt to get him to stand down.

“Don’t!” I growl. “Stop!”

I see the slug’s outline a few inches below the water toward the midsection of the pond. But the agent still didn’t lower the launcher as the slug was only millimetres away from breaching the surface.

So I did the only thing I could think of and shoot at the agent just near the foot. He’s of course startled, dropping his grenade launcher on the ground and letting it roll into the pond, it sinks immediately as if it were a boulder. Once again, the physics of this water body made no sense.

The other agents’ screams of anger at me are cut short after the creature shows himself yet again, this time now being more still and not moving much at all.

“Hold your fire!” I tell everyone. “Just hold on!”

The slug turns to me, causing a small wave to be created. Which was to be expected with something of his size.

“My gratitude is immeasurable.” He says. “So you are not with Ubel yes?”

“No. We’re not, can you tell us exactly what it is he did?” I ask, trying to be somewhat polite. Strange I know, but all the more necessary regardless.

“I’ve never truly hated all humans, for centuries my mother and I have let them cross this bridge unharmed. They worshiped us, saw us as gods. There were instances where they would bring us food, but it all changed when Ubel and the others who wore black came.”

“Wait this house has been around for centuries?” Lenard asks dumbfounded. “The lights inside looked pretty modern to me.”

“Shh!” I hiss.

“They led her to the surface of The Bottomless Pond as if to offer her food. But then a four-legged beast, a wolf as you humans call it, the beast mindlessly obeyed Ubel, attacked and pulled my mother from the pond, killing her before she could be healed. But she suffered a fate far worse soon after, they brought her back and turned her against me, warped her mind until I was forced to kill her once and for all. Ubel said that I would meet the same fate soon enough.”

“Where are this Ubel and his people? The ones in black?”

“They reside in the mansion, Ubel proclaimed I had thirty days to accept his offer. I do apologize for the death of your fellow human, I thought you were all them, that you had returned to make sure I suffered my grim fate. Because you wear the black color.”

“No! No! No!” An agent radios into me, attempting to be subtle. But I’m sure the creature still heard it nonetheless. “Why are we even trying to talk to this thing? Don’t you see this is obviously a trap?”

I ignore him, still keeping my head cocked up at the giant aquatic slug.

“If you’re telling the truth, will let you the other humans over there cross the bridge safely?”

“That I shall.” The slug says with a hint of enthusiasm, he then proceeds to shift his position and dive back down underwater. A large, whale-like purple-colored tail flapping just before he disappeared, the resulting wave knocking the bridge around rather violently.

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The agents were of course hesitant when I waved them over to cross, I didn’t necessarily think they were stupid in that regard of course. This had all happened pretty quickly. But something in me, something told me he was telling the truth and that there wasn’t much reason to doubt him. He could’ve killed us all by now if he really wanted to, yet he didn’t.

The agents are hesitant, skittish even. Raising their guns up at every little sound that’s made, to say they were on edge was a gross understatement.

“I don’t like this. I don’t like this one damn bit.” One complains, speeding up his pace as he nears the end of the bridge.

“You can say that again.” The agent toward the black adds, who was coincidentally also the one who I had purposely shot at to get him to drop his grenade launcher, so it wasn’t a surprise when he gave me a malicious glare.

And, as we turn and start heading up the large, carved out, stone pathway and staircase to the front door of the mansion. I can feel him breathing down my neck. He really wasn’t happy with me. Oddly enough though, it was almost like I could hear him snickering about something

“Bella!” My radio crackles to life. Ted on the other end more furious than ever. “Am I hearing you shot at Agent Ben and made him lose his launcher? Do I need to come down there and-.”

I simply mute the radio. Yeah, it would mean an even bigger headache when I got back, but for now, I didn’t have the time to deal with the nonsense. Plus, Ted’s always been way too much of a control freak, so sometimes it’s nice to see him flip out on the rare occasions people defy him.

Nonetheless, we’re about halfway up the ridiculously long pathway to the front door when I feel something under my feet. Something moving around, it had intent, like it was digging its way up.

“Hey uh, you guys feel that right?” Lenard stops, he and I sharing a look of mutual understanding. But it dawned on me that the thing I felt below wasn’t anything natural, not that anything here really was.

“Pine People! Get ready!” I shout, realizing I had practically taken charge over the mission at this point.

We all stand back to back in a circular shape as they begin to dig their way up from the very ground at our feet. Dirt, minerals, grass, all of it going everywhere as they crawl out.

All of us start shooting simultaneously despite the fact no one had formally announced an open fire.

The eerie quiet that once dominated this area was now a loud repetition of gunfire and battle cries.

Dozens of them emerged from the ground, they didn’t have faces or any distinct features on them. Everything was simply their brown-colored skin, like that of tree bark, with pine needles jetting out along pretty much every inch, no eyes, no mouths, ears, or noses.

They were no bigger than a regular person, most of them just sitting at not any taller than six feet, but they were vicious. Violently aggressive and highly dangerous when they started to group together.

I empty two different magazines, calling for Lenard to cover me while I’m in the process of reloading. He tears up a line of them, bullets ripping right through their bodies like tissue paper, but they were admittedly difficult to shoot due to the unpredictability in their movements.

However, after one agent is in the process of reloading, a couple jumped onto him, animalistically punching, scratching, and hitting him with everything they have.

“Argh! Get off me!” He cries out in terror, I step in. Kicking two of them off and then blasting them both with a few bullets each. Luckily though, enough damage does seem to take them down. Especially headshots, which was the main thing I was going for.

We mow more down, one of them getting the chance to grab me before I could react, I turn, bashing him with the butt of my rifle and then following up by unloading six rounds into his head after he falls to the ground. That green blood they have spilling onto my boots and pants like a geyser had erupted.

“Is that all of them?” I ask before attempting to listen for anymore. Looking at our handiwork as the blood from all their corpses seeps down the steps towards the pond.

“I don’t see anymore,” Lenard responds while keeping his eyes trained elsewhere. “We should be okay for now.”

“Oh uh Bella, Ted wants you to turn your radio back on by the way.” Came the agent who had gotten pounced onto. Standing up and dusting off his gear.

“Ted can eat a shit sandwich.” I snarl. Now growing tired of even just hearing his name.

But I immediately do a one-eighty upon hearing rapid footsteps on the path. It’s one of the Pine People, not wanting to use up any more ammo though. I start walking down to take care of it with a melee attack when it suddenly slips on the blood of its dead relatives, tumbling down the steps of the path as it slams against them in awkward impacts.

It all comes to a stop however when the Pine Person ends up sliding far enough down the stairs and into the pond itself. It clearly can’t swim, desperately thrashing and splashing as it tries to remove itself from its current predicament.

Most unexpectedly, however, it is quickly being pulled under the water with no warning. Leaving only a small ripple where it once was. Well, that is until I saw some of its green blood float to the surface.

“Well would you look at that, Sluggy was really telling the truth,” Lenard smirks.

“He still killed Dave though.” Was the rebuttal of another agent. “I’m not just gonna forget about that.”

We continue moving up, taking proper care to reload our rifles and making sure we had enough ammo left to make it through the rest of this alive. I found myself concerned with the fact that I was running quite low. Prompting me to mentally kick myself for not thinking to bring more.

Once arriving at the supposed front door of the mansion, Lenard kicks it down.

The foyer was bare, no furniture or any sort of decoration. Just a stained white carpet and rotting white walls, again. This layout and design looked far too modern for it to be centuries old. Yet it was simultaneously long abandoned.

We split up, Lenard and I going to explore the west side of the mansion while the other three take to the east. I can hear footsteps coming from somewhere above us, but they are coordinated, calculated, and not like the Pine People’s. So I stay on high alert due to that very fact.

We march down a hall for a bit, I would expect to see some sort of furnishing, a chandelier, a painting, even some books or a coffee table. But no, there was none of that. It was barren beyond belief.

We get into the kitchen, the luxurious fridge residing within it hung open with the light off. Inside there is nothing but rot and rust, two of the shelves knocked over as well, both of them hanging haphazardly.

“None of this makes sense, can one thing about this place be consistent just once?” Lenard quizzes. “I feel like I’m in three different time periods here.”

“Believe me, the world is a crazy place,” I respond as we scope the area out for a few more minutes, but end up finding nothing that can really help us. So we opt to leave the kitchen and head down another hall instead.

It didn’t take long before Lenard and I come to a door that is slightly off its hinges. It’s rotting, most of the wood being scratched off. But It leads downstairs to what I assumed to be the basement. I wasn’t shocked when I saw that lights were on down there too. But I heard no activity. It was mainly the smell of rot and somehow wet dog that got to me as far as my senses went.

“Ladies first.” Lenard spouts sarcastically before proceeding to move down the stairs in front of me anyway. I follow, taking a quick few looks back to make sure no one or nothing was behind us.

I unmute my radio and switch the channel to speak to the other agents to let them know we’re descending.

“This is Agent Bella. Agent Lenard and I found the basement, heading down now.”

I wait for several seconds, there’s no response. No sound, no radio crackling. Just nothing, so I try again. And then again, still nothing.

“Lenard, try your radio,” I wave, flashing my own radio for punctuation.

“Hey, you idiots listening? We found the basement.” He follows up. “Come on you guys gotta let us know everything is alright.”

Once again, the same result and no response. So I do what I had been dreading for the past twenty minutes and switch back to Ted’s channel.

“This is Agent Bella, I’m here with Agent Lenard but the others aren’t responding, I repeat, the others are not responding.”

No response from Ted either, it dawned on us that something was wrong. Seriously wrong.

To make matters worse, Lenard turns and takes off running up the stairs, making a sharp turn and sprinting for the east side of the manor. All of this without warning mind you.

“Wait!” I shout behind him, tripping and falling on the stairs after trying to take off too fast. Lenard doesn’t even look back, I can hear him running along the hallway outside of the basement entrance. Leaving me in the dust as I try to get back up like a clumsy fool.

I finally get to my feet before grabbing my rifle and taking off, following the sounds of his footsteps. Between me falling over and him being a faster runner than me, to begin with, his head start was hard to catch up with.

The rest of the mansion was just as barren as the main foyer was, the hallways were admittedly tight, but even those had nine-foot-high ceilings. I pump my legs with everything I have, my breaths rapid and swift. Ignoring the sound of voices coming from multiple directions.

I feared the worst once I came to the end of the hall I was sprinting down and heard a quick burst of gunfire before it was suddenly cut off. Followed by a heavy smell of iron that had singed my nostrils.

I try to get on my radio one more time, but that futile effort quickly confirms my suspicion that something is blocking the signal and my communications are useless for the time being. Meaning I was now on my own now.

I follow the smell, a scent that had become far too recognizable. But this was my job, I know what had to be done. Not many things scared me like this, sent chills through my spine, or made my hands shaky.

“Lenard!” I call out while holding my rifle out in front of me. “Lenard! Where are you?”

Nothing but the cold silence of the halls says anything back. Well that, and the fact that I noticed a few drops of blood hitting the floor only a few feet in front of me.

I stop, the intensity of my breaths increasing as I hold my weapon. It’s not enough to make me feel safe anymore, not even close. Especially after I did what I wanted to do the least, looking up.

There was a railing, a railing that appeared to lead out from the second floor of the mansion. A railing that let anyone up there look down on the floor I was standing on.

But slumped over a section of the railing was one of the agents, the exact one… I wasn’t sure. Because the majority of his face was missing, save for about one eyeball and a quarter of his nose. But that wasn’t all, both his left and right arm had been torn away from the rest of his corpse, not to mention I saw about a good chunk of his side between his hip and his armpit had been mysteriously mutilated.

“God I-.” I stutter, my voice cracking pathetically despite my efforts to speak. To say something, anything.

The agent looked to have been mauled by a cryptid. I didn’t know what or how. More importantly, I don’t know how I didn’t hear it, surely I would’ve heard something, anything.

I wanted to get out of here, I wanted to turn and run. But I wasn’t a coward, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I just cut and ran away.
One of them still had to be alive, I couldn’t be the last one left. I held out hope I could save a life.

“Lenard!” I yell once more. “Lenard are you alive!”

I know something was there, and it was watching me. Huffing and puffing as I desperately try to get a hold on the situation, but it was far past that point now. Far beyond my control.

“It pains me to see such talent so wasted.” Came an unfamiliar man’s voice from behind, prompting me to snap around in an instant, my finger on the trigger and all.

There stood three figures in a triangular formation. The one in the middle a few feet closer to me than the other two. All three of which were dressed in black robes and or cloaks, hoods on, not allowing me to get an idea of their identities.

However, the one in the middle was more than a little bulky and muscular, his long hair in desperate need of trimming as it hung out from his hood. His beard wasn’t much better in that regard.

Another was more curvaceous, so I assumed it to be a woman. Not that it truly mattered, the three of them were creepy as all hell regardless.

The figure in the middle moves slightly forward, less than a few steps. But, it’s still enough to get a rise out of me.

“Not another step or I’ll blow your head off!” I growl, waving my finger over the trigger to sell my threat better.

The muscular middle man then reaches his hands up to the sides of his hood, gripping it lightly before slowly and dramatically pulling it back, revealing his identity to me.

I try not to react too strongly, wanting to maintain control and dominance over the situation.

“You’re him, aren’t you?” I growl, keeping the crosshairs of my scope on his forehead. “The one who murdered that creature’s mother and turned her on him.”

Ubel smiles, holding out his hand before clapping them together with a certain rhythm.

“Oh, Helena!” He calls out. Still keeping his gaze trained on me.

I hear it, something walking up behind me. Slowly, but its footsteps are heavy, heavy enough to shake the floor itself. As if it were an elephant walking along a tight rope.

“If she turns around or shoots at us, kill her,” Ubel commands the unseen entity behind me. It sounds unnaturally massive, growling like a dog, I can practically feel the warmth of its breath on the top of my head.

“You know I could just blow you all away right now!” I holler, raising my rifle slightly for dramatic effect.

“Oh, believe me, you aren’t faster than Helena, but you’re welcome to try and see how that plays out. You may be able to kill us, sure. But you won’t be able to kill Helena before she begins to tear your limbs from your torso and growl hungrily as you scream for the mercy of your own death to come and end your agony.”

I hear the thing behind me growl again, this time sounding much, and I much closer. Making me some type of fur on the back of my neck. One wrong move and I die a horrible, screaming, death. He was right, even if I do kill them, I’ll still perish painfully anyway. I needed to leave this place with answers.

“Why did you kill the slug’s mother?!”

Ubel steps closer, now knowing he has the ability to do so without me being able to back up my previous threat of blowing his brains out.

“Why do you bring that weapon with you when going on missions? To use it, to protect yourself, to let others know you are not to be messed with. Creatures like these are all over the globe, they are the greatest weapons we can possibly have. Not guns, missiles, or blades. Those are primitive in comparison to true power.”

“So you’re using them? You’re using cryptids? Making them your pets? Is that what this is?”

“Well… Anything sounds terrible with the right combination of words, they’re so amusing, aren’t they? Do you know who else is amusing? Your comrade Lenard.”

Ubel steps aside while holding his hand out in a presentative manner, along with the other two people in the robes.

Lenard then turns the corner, but not the Lenard I know. He was too far gone. His face had the stains of dried blood all over it, part of his upper lip torn off while his skin itself looked extremely pale. Zombie-like if you will, but the main thing was his eyes. They were gone, the eyeballs themselves anyway, but left behind were two red fleshy holes. Despite this though, he still looked over at me as if they were still there.

“What did you do to him!” I burst out violently. Unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation. I mainly wanted to know how they had turned him so fast, we had only been separated for around five minutes. That couldn’t possibly have been enough time.

After ignoring my outburst, he too smiles at me, well, it’s more of a smirk in all honesty. But still. Tilting his head to the left, glancing at Ubel.

“What shall I do to her master?” He says with his voice now heightened, as if it had been through heavy editing. But I know he’s gone, everything that made Lenard, Lenard, vanished. He was now under Ubel’s control. There was nothing I could do to save him.

“I adore your enthusiasm, but just you wait. Reinforcements will come soon, they’ve seen her communications have been cut off by now.” Ubel replies to the Undead Lenard.

“How do you know about that?” I interject.

“The Agency isn’t nearly as good at covering their tracks as they think, that’s why we sent a spy. A fake witness and you all believed him like the fools you are, he knew he would die, but was also aware it was worth it for our cause.”

It all clicked in my mind as he said it, every little detail. The witness had worn bright colors to sneak past the aquatic slug, he had no actual bruises or cuts because the Pine People never really attacked him. Because he was one of them, one of the guys in the black robes.

“You see.” Ubel goes on. “We’re trying to put together our most powerful creation yet, and we need five heads of women to do so. So far we have three, and I thought who would be better to add to the roster than Agent Isabella Davis herself. You’re intelligent, skilled, and useful. Usually, we would burn you alive first and then take your head, but I’m willing to be slightly more merciful with you because I’m impressed. You have to admit, my plan worked, I got you here, didn’t I? But don’t worry, we’ll be long gone before your armed friends show up to help you.”

“You’re gonna quickly find out I’m a lot harder to kill than I look.” I scowl.

“Regardless.” Ubel chuckles. “We have places to be, Helena, come!”

I feel something behind grab hard on the flamethrower strapped to my back, squeezing and applying pressure before it completely snaps and breaks, all the vital fluid inside spilling out.

Ubel and the two black robes turn to walk away, and I finally get a glimpse of the creature that was Helena.

She was a truly massive, humongous canine-like beast as the slug had said. Her height when standing on four legs approached eight feet, so she quite literally was nearly the size of an elephant. Her fur was a light shade of yellow while she possessed three eyes as well, all as black as the void of space itself.

But I still don’t dare shoot, not yet. Not with her right there, she would surely kill me before I could kill her. My head would be torn off my body before I could get more than a few bullets out of the barrel. Plus, I’m sure the other agents attempted to shoot Helena as well, seeing as I heard Lenard’s gunfire, but of course, they failed. I would most likely fare no better.

She elegantly walks along behind Ubel, but he stops for a second turning to the now undead Lenard.

“After you kill her, bring her head to The Chapel, and you’ll receive a reward. Helena and I have business elsewhere.”

And it’s only seconds afterward that they finally disappeared around the corner. Most likely taking a different way out of the mansion, which confused me, seen as the front entrance looked like the only possible way to get in or out on foot. But now that they were gone, the inevitable was going to take place.

Undead Lenard charges at me as I open fire, but his speed was completely unexpected. He dashes to the side inhumanly fast, a few of my bullets only hitting him in the side. Blood does come out, but this does not bother or slow him down pretty much at all.

He gets to me, yanking my rifle out of my hand and then crushing it with his newfound brute strength. So I quickly get my sidearm, but he grabs me by the throat, throwing off my aim before lifting me up into the air.

I’m able to wiggle around just enough before he can squeeze too hard on my throat, he loses his grip and ends up dropping me. With my pistol still in my hand, I turn and run back toward the front entrance of the manor, I don’t hear his footsteps. Instead, I hear the sound of a wall being crashed through.

“Come back! I need you for master!”

I pump my legs as hard as I can, turning the corner and laying eyes on the front door, escape just insight. So close yet so far.

But I’m stopped and thrown completely off my feet when Lenard comes smashing through the wall to my right, tackling me and sending both of us right through the front door wall.

I groan, a bit of blood running down my face as I try to get to my feet. But Lenard was much faster.

He’s far too strong to fight hand to hand, so I don’t even attempt it.
Undead Lenard leaps on top of me, wrapping both hands around my throat and beginning to choke me before I kick him as hard as I possibly could in the stomach.

It doesn’t cause him pain, but my foot and by extension leg, does end up going through his stomach and impaling him. Allowing me to push myself away after I yank my leg out of him. He was definitely strong, but also more fragile at the same time.

I grab my pistol and jump halfway down the stairs, sprinting with every ounce of power in my legs that I have left. I do get a decent headstart, but Lenard is hot on my tail.

“Come back!” He bellows. “I need you to come back!”

I get onto the bridge and begin to run across it, causing it to sway from side to side and send ripples through the water.
I nearly lose my balance several times, I can feel all the muscles in my body burning from everything I had endured up to this point.

I fire my pistol behind me in a futile attempt to slow Lenard down, but I myself don’t dare turn around, not even for a millisecond. Every moment was precious.

Once I’m at the opposite end of the bridge, I practically throw myself off of it. Sliding along the dirt and turning to fire some more shots at Lenard while he’s already covered more than half the distance. So I take aim with my pistol and start to pull the trigger for a headshot before he makes it across.

But he doesn’t make it, instead. The slug monster leaps up from beneath the surface and grabs Zombie Lenard in its jaws. Everything below his chest being engulfed by the creature’s mouth. Most of the bridge is destroyed in the process during this show of brutal spectacle.

“No!!!” Lenard screams, but once again. Not out of agony, it’s from frustrated distress instead. At least, I think that’s what it was. He had failed his objective and was reaching his arms forward at me. As if trying to get out of the slug monster’s hold, but it was no use.

The slug monster then shifts its body and dives back under, splashing a wave of water large enough to practically drench me.

I drop the pistol to my side, spitting up a little bit of the water that had got inside my mouth after I lean to the side.

“Yeah I’ve… I’ve had enough of tonight,” I say uneventfully, talking to myself as I stare up into the sky, the sound of a helicopter coming in the distance. Apparently, they didn’t wanna waste fuel giving us one the first time, but the reinforcements get one no problem. Figures.

Anyway, the reinforcements do arrive and clean everything up. I had told the slug monster to swim as deep as he could because they would kill him if they found him. I told the new team of agents that I had actually ended up killing the “thing in the water” so then they wouldn’t be tempted to bring him to the surface and kill Sluggy themselves.

Ted scolded me once I got back to Site Twelve. Going on and on about how I should be executed for the dumb decisions I had made, I’ll admit. I definitely messed up at some points, but he’s a meathead and wasn’t out there in the thick of it. He has no idea what it’s like being in the field.

There were no signs of Helena, Ubel, or those people in the robes from what I heard. Which made sense, they had made a pretty quick escape. But they said they would be tracking them. I informed them that Ubel had mentioned something about a chapel and told them the things they wanted to do to me.

As for Lenard, I told them the truth. Up until the point where he had been taken by the aquatic slug creature. I just said that I had blown the bridge with a couple of grenades and Undead Lenard had sunk, luckily they believed me.

Morons. They didn’t wanna retrieve his body for experimentation or anything like that, all they care about is that another cryptid had been destroyed. After which, they didn’t care too much about the mansion itself.

As for Sluggy himself, well… I paid him a visit on my own time a few weeks later, bringing him a bunch of raw meat that I had picked up from the grocery store.

“Hey uh- are you here!” I say, waving the grocery bags around. Gloves on as well, just to be on the safe side. I look around to make sure I’m alone, not wanting to not only jeopardize Sluggy but myself as well and get us both killed.

I wait for several seconds as Sluggy swims his way up to the surface. Getting closer to the edge of the ground right where the pond began, taking out some of the meat from the grocery bag.

Sluggy comes and breaches the surface much more calmly than all the previous times before, giving me an intrigued look with all eight of his chalk-white eyes.

“You… You returned.” He pronounces. Shocked at the revelation.

“I did, also brought you something, big guy,” I say holding up some of the meat and tossing it into the water, Sluggy quickly goes to town, scarfing it down like a child at breakfast.

“Ubel…” He begins after he finishes with his first portion. Prompting me to throw him another. “Is he truly gone?”

“It seems that way for now, but don’t worry my people are looking for him, and the wolf, the one that you said killed your mom. I’m really sorry about that.”

“I just wish I could make the both of them perish myself,” Sluggy said before swimming forward slightly to get his third filling.

“I know how you feel, my husband was killed, slaughtered like he was just some pig. I still get angry every time I think about it, but I promise you, Ubel will get his comeuppance.”

I then throw the rest of the meat into the water as I feel my phone ring in my pocket. Taking off my glove and retrieving the device as it continued ringing.

I take one look at the screen, it’s Ted. Immediately making my face sink low, my lips transforming into a frown. I look back at Sluggy as he finishes up his final helping of the meat.

“I uh… I’ve gotta go. If I keep ignoring the calls they’re gonna end up tracking my phone and I don’t want them knowing I’m here, for both of our sakes.”

I give Sluggy a wave, getting up and turning to walk away after putting my phone back into my pocket. But Sluggy calls out, stopping me as I’m about to enter the thick of the treeline.

“Thank you.” Is all he says, it’s much quieter, more intimate than his booming volume of words before.

“Of course.” I nod, turning around and smiling at the entity. “Make sure you take care of yourself, it’s a dangerous world out here.”

Sluggy doesn’t verbally respond, instead, arching his body and diving back down under the surface of the pond for the very last time. Barely even a splash as he disappeared into the abyss below.

Credit : mrmills45

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