(Liz Neering's beginning)
Isa stood in the deer blind, the tip of her rifle pointed through the narrow slat out towards the forest beyond. To her teammate she looked like a stranger, a bundle of cold-weather clothing with only a thin strip of brown skin showing between scarf and snow goggles. The brown strip turned to face him, black eyes a shadow behind polarized plastic.
“I fucking hate these sneaking missions,” she said. “I just want to shoot something. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask.”
Tyler snorted. Behind the heavy fur lining of his coat, he opened his mouth to speak, sending a puff of white into the air. But whatever he meant to say was lost in the sudden crunch of snow, the snapping of evergreen boughs. The hunters’ eyes snapped back to the woods.
Lumbering out from the treeline was a massive creature, wrapped in battered leather, dragging a heavy metal ball and chain. Blood dripped from its mouth and hands. Its head turned as it scanned the field. The hunters drew close together, crowding around the blind’s small opening.
“I can shoot it, right?” Isa hissed. “It’s far enough away. The others won’t hear.” Tyler shouldered into her, shaking his head. But neither moved the muzzles of their rifles, and neither took their eyes off the beast.
Isa then saw a flash out of the corner of her eye, a swift movement that almost made her flinch, and was enough to tear her eyes away from her target. “What the hell was that?”
“What was what?” Tyler asked.
She pulled out her binoculars and scanned the shadows where she had seen it. Right now she saw nothing but darkness. “I think we have a secondary contact,” she said, even though she had no visual confirmation. After a while, instinct took over, and her instinct told her they were being watched, even though they were well hidden in the blind. The problem was, the blind wasn’t camouflage from everything. Just most things.
Tyler snickered. “Getting nervous?”
She tapped her earpiece, and said, “Team two, come in.” They were higher up the range, and theoretically had a better vantage point.
Normally communication was instantaneous. But there was nothing but a white noise hiss over the line. “Team two, respond.”
Now Tyler’s eyes flicked towards hers, his jaw tightening in annoyance. He hit his own earpiece. “Team two, report.”
Nothing. That wasn’t good.
There was an odd thunk on the roof of the blind, followed by a dry scritching. Isa’s stomach burned, and she tightened her grip on her rifle. Something was on top of them.
"Still think it's just my nerves?" Isa asked through clenched teeth.
Tyler eyed the roof. "No. And I don't think we better wait around for Team two, either." He moved toward the door.
"Whoa, wait a minute." Isa grabbed his arm. "Where do you think you're going?"
"I thought you wanted to shoot something."
"Yeah, but I don't want to get killed in the process. You have no idea what's up there."
The scritching sounded again, followed by a squealing sound which could only be strips of the tin roof being peeled off. "I don't know about you," Tyler said, "but I don't like the idea of being stuck in here like a sardine in a can. At least outside we have some room to maneuver."
Isa hesitated, then gave a brisk nod. With both hands firmly grasping her rifle, she followed Tyler out the door.