Chainmaker

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Beast of Chainmaker“What agency are you all from?” the sheriff asked the group of dark-suited men and women who had just entered the building.

A tall dark-haired man in a steel gray suit stepped forward and handed the sheriff a black card.  The sheriff looked at the card.  It was blank.  He turned it over and found another blank side.

The man introduced himself as Joe Chan, then named the members of his team.

Agent Chan explained that the black card was keyed to the sheriff’s thumbprint and when pressed would show the needed contact information.  “Once you verify my credentials, I’d like to have a briefing on the latest attacks.”

Sheriff Carter sighed.  “At this point, son, I’m not sure if I care that you’re legit or some kind of charlatan.  I’ll take all the help I can get.”

“That’s good to hear,” Agent Chan said.  “Our agency specializes in unusual cases, but the initial reports coming out of your township has us wondering and worried.  We have a lot of work to do, Sheriff.”

The sheriff nodded and held out his hand.  “Welcome to Chainmaker.”

***

Chainmaker was a semi-rural township that was once a hub of textiles manufacturing, which had its roots in the ancient practice of chainmaking.  The township presently had a population of a few thousand and was a lovely tourist getaway during the summer.  And it never bothered anyone or asked for anything, until what some believed to be a werewolf began attacking its citizens.

The accounts of the attacks were similar to those heard throughout history about attacks by werewolves and other supernatural beasts.  Descriptions included razor sharp claws and fangs, red fur, spotted fur, flaming eyes, blood-curdling cries, snuffling, growling.  The beast would strike and then vanish without a trace.  No hairs were found.  No fluids save those of the victims.  The beast attacked only women and children at first, but then it started attacking men as well.  By the time the Agency arrived, it had already killed twelve people, including a toddler whose dog also died in a valiant effort to protect his little pack-mate.

But it didn’t start with killing.  The first few reported encounters were little more than frights.  A woman going home after a late shift heard some shuffling in the bushes as she reached her front door.  Lots of neighbors had outdoor cats.  But when she heard a strange guttural sound, she turned around.  What she saw knocked the breath out of her.  It was standing right in her walkway, looking at her.  Its shoulders heaved as it breathed.  Otherwise, it stood as still as she did.  She gazed at it, barely blinking, even as the door gave way behind her.  She fell back and lost sight of it.  Her husband had opened the door.  She fell against him, regained her footing, and slammed the door shut.

Her husband said she started shaking and sweating.  He couldn’t get her to say anything for several minutes, even when their kids came downstairs for dinner, asking what happened.

By the time she came to her senses, the beast or whatever it was she saw, was gone.  She didn’t want to report it.  It sounded preposterous to her even though she could have sworn she really saw it.  When she first called the sheriff’s office, she called it a big wild dog.  Later, when other accounts were reported, she called it a werewolf.  It was tall, she said.  Taken together, the accounts indicated a creature that was seven to eight or nine feet tall when upright.  She mentioned reddish fur, a wide stance with low shoulders, as if it were poised to pounce.  It was sneering, displaying pointed teeth.  She saw no claws.  She had kept her gaze locked on the creature’s eyes.  And when it came to describing those, she began to shake her head.  Her breaths turned shallow.  Most people were used to the idea of intelligent beasts, from movies, books, and the like.  But actually being confronted by the reality of one was usually more than the uninitiated could handle.  It was usually more than even the initiated–like Agent Chan and his folks–could handle.

The beast scared several more people, some of them keeping quiet because they thought they imagined it, others telling anyone who would listen.  And the first explanation for the phenomenon was that it was some hoax.  Kids in costume doing those live action role-playing things they were into.  Or a dare, a prank.  Parents admonished their teens not to be involved in such shenanigans.  Officers and deputies were looking for the “beast.”  No one wanted to be the one who showed up at the sheriff’s department to find their son or daughter dressed in a fur suit with a wolf’s head mask sitting on the deputy’s desk.

But then the first attack happened.  And the victim had no hesitation in reporting it, though there were many who had a difficult time believing it.  She was five years old, playing in a backyard tent with her brother, who was a few years older.  Their mother was inside, and moments away from calling them in.

The children only saw a shadow against the wall of their tent.  They thought it was their father, home from work and stopping by to give them a scare.  The little girl remembered having a split second of doubt when she saw the shadow of two pointy ears.  Then something slashed at the tent and sliced through it.  And before the children could move, a great hulking beast forced its way into the tent and slashed at the closest child, the boy.

The little girl’s screams brought their mother running.  The mother saw the beast.  She flew at it with nothing more than her bare hands.  She remembered clawing at muscle so hard and skin so thick that she did no damage at all to the thing.  It flung her off, and snuffling and gurgling, it leapt away.  The mother rose from the ground.  The creature was gone.  She rushed to the tent, holding a fractured wrist against her chest.  She didn’t know until later that daughter remained unharmed.  When she found them, both children were soaked in blood.

The boy had been slashed from his hip to his shoulder.  If the beast had gotten his neck, he would not have survived.  He also had puncture marks on his right arm from where the beast had bitten him.  The pattern did seem to match the bite pattern of a large dog or wolf.

The little girl later said a monster tried to kill her brother.  But the girl’s mother said it was a mad dog.  It was dim and she hadn’t seen the whole beast.

And so the high school prank became a roaming–probably rabid–dog.  Animal control was called out.  Announcements were made by news for everyone to keep an eye on their small children and their pets until the mad animal could be caught.

A few more attacks later, the rabid dog story began to fall apart.  The slashes were one type of grisly wound no dog could manage.

***

So once again, the officials suspected a person.  Not a prankster now, but a criminal, disguising himself as a werewolf or some supernatural creature in a cowardly attempt to hide his assaults.  A pattern seemed to emerge in the victims.  Only children and lone women were being attacked.  Men could be out alone in the dead of night and the beast never bothered them.  Pets could be accidentally left out to wander and they were never touched.  But a child or woman could be close to home, near the protection of friends and family, and still the beast would appear and attack.

Volunteers with hunting rifles came to the sheriff’s office, claiming if this costumed brute wanted to pretend he was a rabid animal, they would hunt him down like one.

The sheriff’s department reviewed their evidence, all of it anecdotal.  They looked at everything from surveillance cameras to cell phone videos.  Nothing showed a clear picture of the beast.  Nothing could help them determine for certain if the beast was indeed a man in disguise.  Or if it really was a beast.

Fear of the beast kept the residents indoors after dark, as did fear of getting accidentally shot.  The sheriff’s office required every volunteer hunter who wanted to help track down the beast to check in, only go out under the lead of at least one deputy, and follow the orders given.  But a few out-of-towners didn’t heed those directives.  And the residents began to hear the random crack of gunfire during the night.  Some stray dogs and cats and even a pet that got loose were accidentally wounded or killed when mistaken for the beast.  The sheriff’s office had to spend some time finding and arresting those so-called hunters, while the beast continued to roam.

Everyone in the township and even neighboring towns were already suffering from frayed nerves and the ongoing doubt of what the creature really was.  And then came the first death.

No one was surprised.  It was only a matter of time.  Efforts to capture the creature, kill it, find evidence of it, were redoubled.   There was no doubt of the creature’s existence and yet that one strange detail persisted, that no one could find any forensic evidence.  No hairs or fibers.  No bodily fluids.  No chipped pieces of claw or tooth.  Even its footprints were always obscured.  Despite the existence of modern-day scanners, tracking devices, ubiquitous cameras, and ever more precise and deadly weapons, the beast continued to savage its victims and elude its hunters.

After the first death came another and another and another.  All women at first.  And then the first child was killed.  And the daylight attacks began.  And then men were attacked, breaking the only known pattern the authorities thought they recognized.  Schools were shut down.  No one would have sent their kids anyway.  Businesses were shut down, save for the essential ones.  Doors and windows were firmly locked and barred and monitored.  No one travelled alone.  And no one who went about outdoors was without a weapon.  The entire township was on lockdown.

The only people who dared roam around during the day and even at night were mostly out-of-towners.  Journalists of varying reputations, reality and internet shows looking for cryptids, morbid horror tourists, and various government agents.  The local law enforcement, overwhelmed but stalwart in the face of the attacks and the attention, continued to patrol and check in on homes and businesses.

The sheriff had called for help from outside the township after the first few attacks, and long before the first death.  Long before the creature was named.  The Chainmaker Beast, it was called in the news, or the Beast of Chainmaker.

The Agency, after deciding the beast could not be a person in disguise or a known animal, at last answered the call, partnering with local law enforcement, and taking over jurisdiction from all other federal agencies.  It had been three months since the first sightings.  And a week since the first killing.  The Agency began extensive research to characterize the creature.  The research team at headquarters worked to figure out what the beast could be based only on witness testimony, hazy pictures, and some chilling sound recordings.  A forensics team was sent to collect fresh evidence at each attack site.  Agents from the force protection unit joined the hunting squads with a few unique weapons, none of which would be useful if the beast never showed itself to them.  After a week, no new evidence had been uncovered and no agent had yet seen the beast.

Then what should have been a simple case of some supernatural creature terrorizing the countryside, a creature that could be classified and neutralized, took an expected and unwelcome turn.

***

There were the few bad apples in the township who claimed to have been attacked just for the media attention.  But most people, even the children, were taking the beast seriously.  The twelve-year-old boy who came forward with a new and troubling piece of information about the beast was known to have an active and vivid imagination.  But Sheriff Carter knew the boy and believed him.

The boy had been watching his younger brother.  They were both indoors in the older boy’s bedroom.  On the second floor.  The older boy went to use the restroom.  He heard a knock at the bathroom door and yelled out that he was almost done.  He had only been gone for a few minutes when he returned to find the Chainmaker Beast slashing at his closet door.

All the township’s children had been given some training by their caretakers on what to do if they should encounter the beast.  Where to run to.  Where to hide.  The older boy started yelling for his parents and he grabbed a nearby snow globe and threw it at the beast.  The globe hit the beast and fell to the ground, shattering.  The beast turned and saw the boy.  It backed away and seemed to melt into the wall.  No smoke.  No flames.  It just vanished.

“Phasing, the boy called it,” the sheriff said.  “The parents didn’t see.  It was gone by the time they got there.”

“That may be part of the reason you’re having such a hard time detecting and catching him,” Agent Chan said, rubbing his chin.  They were at the sheriff’s department, taking a quick dinner break.  “That’s why no one has been able to get a clear shot of the thing with cameras and recording devices.”

“There’s also some anecdotal evidence suggesting the creature is aware of surveillance and is taking efforts not to be seen,” one of the deputies said.  Deputy Weir.  She was a young woman who already had the demeanor of someone who might end up in some agency one day, if she so chose.  Sure enough, Agent Chan noted the proud glance that the sheriff gave his deputy.

“And that’s also why there’s no forensic evidence from the creature,” Agent Chan said.  “All of its parts, like the whole, phase out of our perception.”

“You mean to tell me after all the other stuff this thing can do, it can pass through objects?  How the hell are we supposed to catch a thing like that?”  The sheriff took a deep and steady breath.  But Agent Chan could see that the sheriff was taking great pains to suppress whatever frustration and desperation he truly felt.  “How can I keep my people calm when they know this thing can just pass through their living room wall?”

While some residents had fled, many had stayed, as a point of pride, believing they could keep safe indoors and in groups.  But learning the beast could pass through objects would be too much.

“If this is part of the beast’s escalation strategy, we’ve run out of time,” the sheriff said.  “You’ve got to figure out how to help us find it.”

“Is it phasing in and out of another dimension?” Deputy Weir asked.  “Or is it teleporting?  Can you guys tell the difference?”

“To some degree.”

Sheriff Carter looked him in the eye.  “Please tell me you’ve got some state-of-the-art device that can find this thing and catch it and hold it in place, so I can fill it full of all the silver bullets I can get my hands on.”

Joe gave the sheriff a sympathetic smile.  “I don’t think the bullets will have to be silver, Sheriff.  This doesn’t seem to be a werewolf.”

“Do you mean to say werewolves are real?”

“It doesn’t seem to be what legends say a werewolf is.  Let’s put it that way.  Our science team has been going over every bit of evidence and testimony you’ve collected so far.  And we’re running out follow-up investigations and interviews.  We have to find out if we know what we’re dealing with or if this is something we haven’t encountered before.”

***

As it turned out, the Beast of Chainmaker was something the Agency hadn’t encountered before.  All their theories of what it might have been–an extinct hyena-like animal, a known supernatural creature (with equally known weaknesses), a serial killer with superhuman abilities–seemed to be wrong.

So the Agency turned its focus on the victims.  Agency scientists had been running tissue and blood samples from the victims through every high efficiency and high throughput test in their battery–cellular, molecular, atomic, quantum.

Agent Chan glanced down at his tablet, then swept his gaze around the table where the township’s officials were seated.  “So far, we’ve one thing the victims have in common.  The victims seem to have a genetic similarity in a repeating gene sequence in the same chromosome across individuals.”  He looked over at the sheriff.  “Sorry, I’m not a science guy.  But suffice it to say, all the victims share something in their genes.  So we should be able to predict who might be at risk of getting attacked and make sure we put extra protection on those individuals.”

“Can this help us figure out how to find the beast?” a town official asked.

“Maybe.  The science team will continue searching for commonalities among the victims.  In the meantime, we’re testing our agents for the gene sequence.  If we can find a few matches among those who volunteered to be bait, we might be able to set a trap.”

The sheriff crossed his arm.  “A trap that thing can’t ‘phase’ out of?”

“Our science teams aren’t the only ones doing research.” Agent Chan glanced around the briefing room again.  “We have historians, mythologists, archaeologists, and more combing through our own archives and your town’s documents, searching for any mention of a similar beast attacking this area in the past.  We’ve found something.  Bits of a local legend.  We’re still searching for a complete narrative.  Are any of you familiar with the real reason your township is named Chainmaker?”

***

Agent Chan told the sheriff and gathered deputies and officials the tale his people had discovered in the oldest of the town’s records.  A story that was previously passed down by oral tradition from times when the great township was a tiny remote village.  The story was about a demon with red fur and flaming eyes that could melt away into the air before one’s very eyes.   This demon haunted the land and killed many people and no one could stop it.  No prayers.  No weapons.  No magic known to man.  Even the innocence of children didn’t stop it.  The demon preyed upon children as much as it did upon men and women.

Then one day, a star fell from the sky and into the valley just beyond the land, leaving behind a cosmic metal.  Visions were received by many that same night.  By those who were holy and those who were not.  And all the visions said the same thing.  That cosmic metal was the only material capable of binding the red demon.  So the people of the village took the metal.  They melted it down and it looked like molten silver, but was not silver.  Not earthly silver.  They worked for days and nights forging a chain, link by link.  When the metal cooled, it turned black.  And so the people called it night silver.

When the villagers finished making the chain, they saw that it took on the color of night so well, they could hide it up in the sky.  They set a trap for the beast.  Five young men and five young women volunteered to stay out of doors during the night, each separated by some distance, yet all below a portion of the great chain that they had helped to make.  They waited all night but the demon did not come.  They waited again the next night, but the demon still did not come.  On the third night, the demon came, but not for the young men and women.  It so happened that an old shepherd was slow bringing his flock home.  He was set upon and killed by the demon.  His neighbor found him in the morning with his throat torn out and his flock wandering about.

The frightened, angry, desperate villagers didn’t know what to do.  Then a young woman came forward and asked to speak.  She had been making a list of the dead to honor them, and a list of those who had been attacked by the demon to assure they received reparations for their ordeals.  She noticed something about the names.  They were all related.  Some more distantly than others.  But they were all descended from the same person.  And when she told them who that person was, their woes began to make sense.  For the ancestor of the victims was a man from an ancient land in the east who had been exiled from his country and cursed for some betrayal he had committed.  Cursed was he and cursed was his seed.  For he and all his kin thereafter were to be troubled by a demon.  The exiled man already had many children that he left behind in the east.  He swore to have no more and traveled west.  He came upon the little village, and in that village he found help in containing the demon.

So the demon had remained contained until it went free somehow, having broken its bonds, or perhaps having been freed.

The villagers realized that none of the youths they had chosen to lure the creature out were descended from the eastern man.  So they asked among those who were and found some youths who were brave enough to stay out alone during the night.

That very first night, the demon appeared.  Down came the chains of night silver.  They fell upon the demon.  They weighed him down, and entangled and strangled him.

***

“Sounds like a meteorite,” Deputy Weir said.  “The star that fell from the sky.”  She shrugged.

Agent Chan nodded.  “Yes, most likely.  We also think we know what ‘night silver’ really is.”

“And that curse on the man and his descendants,” the deputy continued.  “That sounds a lot like the genetic mark that all the victims have in common.  Like maybe it’s a tag to mark out who should be attacked.”

People shifted in their chairs.  And one of the town officials spoke.

“Does that mean someone trained this thing to attack certain people?”

“Who would do that?  And why?  What do they want?”

The sheriff brought the room to order.  “Whatever the reason.  Whatever the motive.  We can figure all of that out after we capture and kill this thing.”  He glanced at Agent Chan.  “After we do that, after I’m satisfied that it is dead as dead can be, I’ll be happy to hand its carcass over to your science folks.  They can peel it apart, and poke and prod and slice and dice all they want until there’s nothing left of it but our awful memories.”

“Why didn’t the eastern man kill it?” Deputy Weir asked.  “Or the villagers that came after him?”

Agent Chan shook his head.  “I don’t know.  Maybe they did.  There might be more to the story.  We’re still looking into it.  But I think I know what you’re getting at.  What if it can’t be killed?”

“Right.  Why didn’t someone make some arrowheads out of that night silver?” the deputy asked.  “If the metal could capture and bind the demon, why couldn’t it pierce the demon?  Did they have some taboos about killing demons?  Were they afraid of angering their gods or something? I mean, if that’s all there was to it, then let’s make some night silver bullets and get going.  But if there was some legitimate reason not to kill the thing…”

“What legitimate reason could there be, Deputy?” one of the town officials asked.

“What if killing the thing makes it explode?” Agent Chan said.  He was just trying to get everyone back on track, but as the representative of the Agency, all intelligence he presented was being taken at face value.  He caused a few gasps and declarations before he was able to calm them down and clarify that he didn’t know what killing the creature would do.  “If we can capture it, we can buy ourselves the time to figure out how best to destroy it without making things worse.”

***

The plan they decided upon was the same one that the township’s ancestors, those brave chainmaking villagers, had used.  They had some volunteers to serve as bait.  And they would make bindings from the night silver that Agent Chan had acquired and was having delivered.  The scientists had identified the metal as a rare naturally occurring alloy with a name so difficult to pronounce that everyone involved in the plan just referred to it as night silver.  A chain, while it may have been poetic, would not have been as effective and easy to deploy.  So the engineers built fine nets.  Just like in the legend, the nets were near-invisible at night.

Agent Chan and the sheriff waited within line of sight of one volunteer in the sheriff’s squad car.  A laptop on the dashboard showed four video feeds, each of them displaying the other four volunteers.  Instead of one great chain, the engineers had built five nets.  There were more than five volunteers, but the night silver alloy was hard to come by.  Five nets and a few dozen bullets were all they could make.

Everyone feared the story would go as the legend went.  Nights of waiting with nothing happening.  Some innocent hapless bystander getting killed by the devious beast while everyone was looking elsewhere.

But on the very first night one of the microphones in the trap zone picked up sounds of snuffling and mangled calls.  And then something moved across one of the cameras.  Agent Chan and Sheriff Carter didn’t wait and watch.  As they ran to the position of the attack, they heard gunshots and roars and human screams and some thundering crackling sound.  They emerged into a clearing where other members of the various capture teams were converging.

Deputy Weir knelt beside the agent who had volunteered to be the bait in that sector, pressing her hand on the agent’s neck.  The agent’s throat was slashed, but she was still alive.  Agency paramedics rushed to her aid, taking the deputy’s place.

“It tore through the net,” the deputy said, rising.  Her gaze was steady but her voice wavered.  “The net didn’t work.”

The sheriff took her by the shoulders.  “Did you fire at it?  Did you hit it?”

The deputy nodded.  When the net first fell, it did manage to contain the beast long enough for them to attack it.  She and two agents had fired at the beast.  Bullets of night silver.  All three bullets hit the beast.  That crackling sound had been the sound of the beast struggling to phase away.

The deputy wiped a bloody hand against her leg.  Her voice sounded hollow as she asked, “What do we do now?”

***

“It has to be a chain,” Agent Chan said.  “We were wrong to ignore that part of the story.”

“Son, we were wrong to rely on stories in the first place.  Now we know that we’re able to lure it out.  And we know that we can hit it with bullets.  Even your guys said they hit it and it was hurt.  Hurt enough for their body cams to get some real images of it for the first time.”

They were watching those images in the sheriff’s office, trying to analyze what went wrong.  The beast phased back into sight several feet away and slashed a few more agents and deputies before loping away.  All the wounded were in the hospital being treated.  The agent who’d been slashed in the neck was still in surgery, still in danger of dying.

The whole township seemed to be on the lookout for the beast.  The sheriff’s office was getting multiple calls of sightings every few minutes.  The sheriff wanted to go out and get the beast now that it seemed to be on the run.  There was a feeling of urgency and hope that the bullets the beast had taken might have hurt it enough to prevent it from phasing away.

“We don’t need to chain it if we can put it down,” the sheriff said.  He grabbed a rifle and a walkie and nodded to Deputy Weir as he walked toward the door.

The deputy gave Chan a confused frown.  She was probably still shaken from her earlier encounter with the beast.  She dutifully grabbed a rifle and followed her boss.

Agent Chan watched them and wondered if he should have let the locals take the lead all along.  In trying to improve upon the methods they had discovered in their research, the Agency had missed the point.  The town was called Chainmaker.

There was no way that the Agency engineers, quick and clever as they were, could convert the night silver netting into a chain and do it before more of the townsfolk and their law officers came to harm.

The other agents awaited his orders.  He told them to stand down.  He saw that a good number of them didn’t like the idea of leaving the sheriff and his people with the terrifying task of hunting down the beast.  With their poor luck, the wound would serve more to enrage the beast than to slow or hobble it.

It was the middle of the night, but Agent Chan contacted headquarters and asked if the any of the researchers had uncovered anything more that could provide insight about the beast.  They had indeed.  They were moments away from contacting Agent Chan when they heard from him.  And what they told him almost made him drop his phone.

***

“Faster, come on faster,” Agent Chan said, speaking to the unmarked black sedan he was speeding in.  Two more sedans followed.  On the back seat of Agent Chan’s car was a bag full of loose chain links, and two agents desperately putting the links together.  Both agents had that gene sequence variance.  And the chain they were assembling was the very one that had bound the demon or the beast, or whatever the creature was.  It had taken a few hours to find the chain and during that time, Agent Chan had monitored the sheriff’s communications, finding himself hoping that the beast would elude the sheriff for just a bit longer.

Agent Chan listened for the reports of the beast sightings and the locations of the various squad cars.  The sheriff could indeed kill the beast, especially with the several night silver bullets he had left.  And while its normal state of being was to be out of phase, the wounded and dying beast would come farther and farther into phase with human perception, becoming more and more unstable.  As it turned out, Agent Chan’s joke about the beast exploding might not have been that far off the mark.  The chain was the only thing that could counteract that phase imbalance.  Dead or alive, the beast had to be chained.  And the villagers from the old legend had indeed tried to kill it and failed.  But bullets had never been tried.  Bullets might work.

Agent Chan reached the three-story building that was the township’s oldest department store.  He waited while his agents put together the chain that they would use.  The air felt heavy, dense.  Moreso when he moved toward the building.  He stepped back.

“Late to the party, Agent,” a grizzled voice said.  And from the main door emerged the sheriff.  Behind him a quartet of deputies dragged something out into the light of the half moon.

It was the Beast of Chainmaker.

There was no phasing now.  Blood gushed and trickled from the beast.  Gore smeared against the steps as the massive creature was dragged down it.  Taking no chances, half a dozen deputies followed, guns and rifles at the ready and pointed at the beast.

“We won’t need that anymore,” Sheriff Carter said, noting the chain that the agents were still frantically putting together.

Agent Chan ignored the sheriff for the moment.  He watched the beast and the men who were struggling to pull it.  “It’s getting heavier, isn’t it?”

“They’re exhausted,” the sheriff said.

“That’s not it.  They’re not imagining it.  It is getting heavier.  We have to get the chain around it.”

“You think it’s not dead?” Deputy Weir asked.  She was one of the half dozen deputies holding a gun on the still beast.

Agent Chan told them what his team had learned since last they spoke.  They had managed to find another version of the eastern man’s story, and analyze some of the atmospheric readings that had been taken during the failed attempt to net the creature.

The township was named Chainmaker.  The chainmakers had contained the demon in their story.  But everything has its opposite.  There was an unmaker.  One who could undo the chain and free the demon.  This unmaker in the old stories was someone who had been tasked with following the eastern man and assuring that the curse upon him was fulfilled.  When he saw that the chainmakers had succeeded in binding the demon, he spent his lifetime learning how to unmake the chain.  He was unsuccessful and passed his knowledge and burden on to his descendants.

No weapon could pierce the demon’s skin in those days, as the villagers learned when they tried with spear and arrow.  Once again, they received guidance through dreams and visions.  If one could kill the demon, it would unleash the demon’s evil powers and destroy a vast swathe of the earth.  Demons could only be cast back into their own worlds, therefore, or captured and contained.

The research team found some scientific support for the “unleashing of evil” part of the legend.  It had to do with the creature’s phasing, which required a tremendous amount of energy.  The beast was able to generate and regulate that energy while it was living.  But if it died, suddenly and quickly, there was no telling what would happen to the energy built up within it.

“So, it is going to explode?” Deputy Weir asked.

“Is it truly dead?” the sheriff asked at the same.

“I don’t know,” Agent Chan said in answer to both questions.  “We found out who this Unmaker is in this generation and that led us to find the pieces of the unmade chain, right here in town.”

“It’s one of us, isn’t it?” Deputy Weir asked.  “The Unmaker.”

Agent Chan shook his head.  “No, it’s not one of you.  It’s not one of the town officials.  Or the creepy kid down the street or anyone we met in Act One.  The Unmaker is a stranger to you.  One of the tourists who came and went during the on-season.  We’re tracking him down now.  We’ll inform you once we have him.  And include you when we question him and try to figure out why he acted and why now.”

The agents finished the chain and began to drape it over the body of the beast.  Almost immediately, the heaviness in the air seemed to dissipate.  Everyone’s shoulders seemed to heave up as if they had just thrown off a weight from their backs.  The deputies’ guns were still pointed at the beast, but it hadn’t moved at all.  The agents rolled it over so they could secure the chain, and while they had to heave a bit, the two agents didn’t struggle as the four deputies had when dragging the unchained beast.  There was indeed some strange science at play.

Deputy Weir shook her head.  “Why didn’t he take the chain with him?”

This time, Agent Chan shrugged.  “His task was only to free the beast.  Maybe he left the links on purpose in case modern weapons managed to kill the beast and someone would need to chain its body up to prevent it from imploding or exploding.”

“I’ll want to watch it overnight,” the sheriff said.  “Then I’ll be satisfied its dead.”

***

They all stayed right there and watched the beast, not daring to move it, not daring to load it into a car where it might suddenly come back to life and devour the three or four people who were transporting it, throw off its chains and phase away to come back and kill another day.

Dozens of more agents and deputies arrived at the scene, taking turns to watch.  As more and more time passed and the beast remained still, everyone became more and more relaxed.  Pictures were taken as evidence.  Pictures were taken as point of pride for conquering the beast.  But no one wanted any selfies with the creature that had killed their neighbors and friends and family.

Deputy Weir wondered if the beast was some long-lived creature that had been captured hundreds of years ago and only set free in recent times.  Perhaps it had gone mad.  Then she speculated whether or not the beast was truly dead or in some kind of deep hibernation.  She only spoke to Agent Chan about such things.  Everyone else wanted the beast to be dead and gone.

When morning came, with it came the Agency’s special transport truck.

One agent had brought the netting made of night silver, which Agent Chan handed over to the sheriff.  The sheriff accepted the gift and he declared his certainty that the Beast of Chainmaker was dead.

“We’ll take it from here,” Agent Chan said.  “We’ll watch it constantly, make sure it stays dead.  We’ll keep any unmakers from getting to it.”

“And we,” the sheriff said, bowing his head to the gathered agents.  “We will heed our own stories and help to strengthen that old chain by building a new one.”  He lifted up the netting.

Deputy Weir stepped up beside him and shrugged.  “Making chains.  It is what we do.”

 

Copyright © 2015 by Nila L. Patel.

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