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‘We were done making our rounds and heading home, walking, we’d cut through the woods. Then there was an opening and we come on it.’

‘Blood, everywhere. Splattered on the trees, the grass, the creek, everywhere. At first, we figured it was a pack of wolves. We’d seen it sometimes, they can’t scavenge and start hunting deer. The worst was when they breed with feral dogs. But this wasn’t like that.’

‘Something had run up on a den of deer. Wolves won’t attack a den, Coyotes neither, because they’d get too much of a fight. There were three, I think, three bodies. Just torn apart. You’d see a head here, a leg here, and a torso there. Predators don’t do that. They don’t leave behind scraps. What had done this hadn’t done it for food. It had done it for fun.’

‘But we didn’t know that. We saw a bunch of carcasses and we think it’s something we gotta take care of. I remember my brother telling me to go home; he thought it was a pack of feral dogs.’

‘But I wasn’t leaving him, and I damn sure wasn’t walking through two miles of woods alone, with nothing but a knife and my flintlock. Jeb had the musket, and it was cocked and full up ready, and I wasn’t going without it.’

‘Took me a while, to convince him, but finally we began tracking whatever did that. Wasn’t hard, we just followed the blood. The thing bleed a deer before it got away or it dragged one for a mile. I don’t know. I know that I’d never seen Jeb that scared before that night.’

‘We started hearing noises. Like trees snapping and things running cold fast. I’ve been in a lot of woods, in my life, I’ve been all over this world, and ain’t never heard noises like I heard that night. I heard things, I heard animals screaming.’

‘Heard deer, and heard fox, and rabbits and raccoons and birds, just scared. This is maybe twelve, or one o’ clock at night, except the fox and some birds, nothing was supposed to even be awake. But they weren’t just awake they were moving. I saw flocks of birds that night fly straight into trees just trying to get out of there. We came up on a pack of coyotes, nearly shot a couple thinking it was what we were looking for us, but then we saw they were running towards us. They ran right passed us, didn’t even notice.’

‘Then some deer did the same. Some rabbits, and squirrels, foxes, even a couple wild hogs. These things were supposed to be eating each other and the only thing they cared about was getting away from there.’

‘What we were tracking, it wasn’t something we were supposed to see, it wasn’t something old, and something we couldn’t kill. I don’t know why we didn’t just go home. I think that was his nature, to go toward trouble, to fight.’

‘We finally get into an open valley. It was normally a corn field, but it wasn’t in season, so it was just flat dirt. We saw the tracks, then. A lot of the animals fleeing the forest had paved over the land. But where that deer blood was, nothing had taken a single step. Like they were leaving it for us to find.’

‘The tracks were shallow. Whatever it was couldn’t have weighed more than one hundred pounds, but that didn’t mean much. A bobcat weighing forty pounds nearly tore out my damn throat, once. All that means is that it’s quick and hard to hit.’

‘So we follow the tracks, and it doesn’t take us long to find where it is. There’s this old church that sits on the top of a hill.

‘We get within fifty yards, and we hear this noise. A screeching kinda sound. It was sort of made up of two different sounds. One was a high pitched screech, another was a low pitched growl. It was making both, at the same time.’

‘We get within twenty yards, and we hear this sound. I can remember thinking that it sounded like paper being torn apart, while someone was swinging water in a bucket, back and forth.’

‘Jeb looks at me, kneels down, and whispers. I gotta stay behind him, ’cause we’re about to corner him. Any animal will fight when it’s cornered, especially when it’s a predator. But we can tell by the tracks that it’s just one. He tells me it’s probably a single, rabid dog, probably rabid.’

‘The plan is to sneak up on it while its eating, shoot it, and then keep shooting it ’till it don’t move anymore, then slit it’s throat. And if it gets to my brother, It’s my job to shoot it or stab it to get it off him. So he walks up, and I’m right behind him, just a tad to his side, so I can see what it is. I wish to this day I hadn’t.’

‘It was leaning over a carcass, tears off its flesh, and throws what it doesn’t nibble at aside. There’s blood all over the brick, glistening in the moonlight. It’s pale white. Human looking, but not quite human. It had arms and legs like a human, but it sat like a monkey, hunched over. And its hands weren’t normal; it had long fingers with claws at the end.’

‘So we see that, and my brother hesitates. He wasn’t about to fire on a person. So he clears his throat, to try get it to turn around.’

‘I swear to god, all the noise just ceased. I ain’t ever heard true silence before that, and not after it. But for two seconds, nothing, nothing, made any noise. Which made it all the louder when it turned around, made this shrill cry, and jumped Jeb.’

‘He got a shot off. I think he missed. If he hit the thing, it didn’t mind. But it was on him, tears parts of him off. I start shooting it with the flintlock, point blank, but it barely bled the thing. I got off three bullets, and then I started hitting it with the gun butt. But it wasn’t budging.’

‘It didn’t even register that I was there.’

‘It’s clawing at Jeb, taking off bits of his flesh. It starts on his torso, ripping off the skin, his chest, then it moves up. It tore off his throat, it tore off his nose, his eyes, it scalped him. Then it started digging in, ripped off the bottom half of his jaw, the little bones and that tube in the neck, then his ribs.’

‘I don’t exactly remember what happened, but somehow, my brother’s knife ends up in this things shoulder, and Jeb ends up on my back. I’m running, and by god I’m running faster than I’d ever run before or after. And its following me. I end up back in the woods, opposite the ones we been in. I’m headin’ towards my landlords house, cause it’s half a mile away.’

‘I can hear this thing, screeching and moaning. I hear these tree branches crack and get thrown around. It sounds like someone’s taking an ax to every single tree I pass, its cracking so loud and often, but I just ain’t looking back.’

‘Finally, I trip into chopped wood. I look up and there’s my landlord and bunch of his buddies, drinking brandy around a fire. I scream and I cry, and they come over. I’m telling them to call help, and they look at me, and I’ll never forget what they said.’

‘What is that on your back?’ they asked me. Just as he said it, he saw. One of those god awful wool shirts my brother wore everywhere. It was what was left of my brother. Most of his head, his torso, but nothing after the waist.’

‘Suddenly we hear it. Screeching. He grabs me, Jeb gets thrown on the ground. I’m fighting him, crying, cause I think we can still save him, somehow, but my brother had been gone before I ever picked him up. They has to pick me up and throw me inside before I come with him.’

‘Others and all, we’re all inside, and their bolting doors, and getting new muskets ready. The landlord’s asking me ‘what happened?’ ‘what happened?’ but I just don’t know what to tell him. He pieced enough of it all together to understand that there was something dangerous there. The fire was still lit just outside and through the dovetail notches of the cabin wall you could look, and someone ran to call the Sûreté.’

‘Outside, we see it walk in front of the fire. Don’t know what it is, one of ‘em says it looks like an Ape. Suddenly, something goes through the window. We shoot at it, but ain’t the thing. Its my Landlord’s dog. Just the body, though. Not his head or legs.’

‘We start pushing things in front of doors and windows, when we hear something round the back. I remember one of his friends sayin’ that the doors were open. We hear wood just get ripped apart.’

‘It banged around some more, but then it got quiet. Not silent, like it was before. We could hear it move around some, and the guys were talking, making sure the muskets were ready. Someone hands me a one. No sooner did I cock the hammer back did we hear something shatter upstairs. Then we heard it screech again except now it was louder, and it didn’t echo and fade out. Because it was inside.’

‘We all rushed to the one door leading to the kitchen and push salting meats and drying apple pieces on the ropes and they all fall on us and we got to it just as that thing did. It opened the door just a bit and four or five men just slammed into it. It got its hand through. Someone with a rifle took care of that. Put the barrel right up to its wrist and pulled the trigger. Cut its hand off, clean.’

‘That only pissed it off, though. It started pushing on that door, clawing. We were on one side, pushing as best we could, and it was on the other, doing the same. That wood just wasn’t going to hold, so someone tells us to keep our heads down. Suddenly the top half of the door is just gone, my ears are ringing, and there are splinters everywhere. Two or three of them just unloaded on the top of that door.’

‘I don’t really know where it went after that. The Sûreté got there. I was still glued to that door, what was left of it. The sun was up before they got me off it. They put me in with the Nuns for a while. A lot of people talked to me, but I didn’t talk back, not for a long, long time.’

‘When I got back home, I got a job for the landlord, working on the farm. We didn’t talk much, not about the thing. But, I signed up for the army when I was eighteen, and he sat me down to drink some brandy as a send off. I asked him, right away, what the Sûreté told him. The story they went with was a wild animal, probably a wolf, or maybe a bear that had been hungry or protecting young. I asked him how they could say that when they had the hand. He looks at me, stunned.’

‘He tells me that hand never made it back to town. The Sûreté who had it, died. The hand was never found, probably taken away by an animal. They said it was the paw of a bear that looked like a human hand.’



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