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Gregory M. Thompson

 

THE BEAST MAN

by

GREGORY THOMPSON

     You ever seen a freak of nature?  I have.  I use to think my younger brother was a freak of nature (te-he) until I saw this seven foot, brown, beast thing.

     We was in the back woods of Kankakee State Park camping far from civilization.  It was me, my brother, my mama and papa, and grandma.  My papa was on vacation from the mill some ways up north and this is where he decided to go.  He didn't care for the others' opinion, he just made us pack up and leave.

     I'm not saying I wasn't having a good time:  me and my brother was kinda enjoying ourselves.  Sometimes we'd sneak off in the middle of the night and do a little hunting.  We had to take our papa's rifles and guns, but we wasn't going to tell papa--he'd blacken our hides for sure.  Last night me and Bubs took down a grizzly.  We was so proud of ourselves.  But we couldn't tell nobody and Bubs has a scar just above his right eye where the bear clawed him.

     Mama and grandma obviously wasn't having a good time, you could see it in their faces.  They told papa, more than once on this vacation that they wanted to get home, but papa was boss and we wasn't going nowhere until his time was up.

     It was his time when the freak of nature showed up.

*          *          *

     Papa just got the campfire started when the howling began.  Mama jumped from her makeshift log-chair and rattled the pans.

     "What was that?" she yelped.

     Papa looked in the direction of the sound.

     "Aw," he finally said, "It's just the damn wolves ya crazy woman."  I saw him look at Mama's worried face.  "And don't you worry about those animals.  They won't come near here if the fire's going."

     "But still--" Mama started to say, but Papa shut her up.

     "I don't want to hear anything more about it.  Now hush up," he said.

     Mama nodded, as she always did.

     Wolves?  They didn't sound like wolves to me.  Wolves never howled like that, at least the ones I've heard.  It sounded more like how the Devil would sound if a knife was being thrusted into him.  I looked at Bubs and saw that he didn't believe Papa either.

     Around ten or so Papa, Mama, and Grandma turned in.  They all shared a tent and Bubs and I shared the other.  We decided to stay outside and go to sleep later.  We had some hunting to do...but of course we didn't say that.

     Instead of hunting animals, I was going to let Bubs do a little fishing with the gun.  I don't know how well he'll do, but it'll give him a chance to use the gun.

*          *          *

     The water was very cold.  Bubs was scared to go in the water, but with a little help, I managed to shove him in.  He didn't like that very much.  Bubs splashed water at me and I just laughed.  We was going to have a good time.

     Bubs raised the gun over his head and waded further into the river.  The water was climbing on him fast and he stopped when the water was at his waist.  He waved to me.

     "Come in the water, it's fine!"

     I shook my head.  "Just stay still.  The fish won't come when the water's being disturbed!"

     Bubs nodded.

     Turning his head towards the water, Bubs squinted his eyes.  He sure was concentrating.  I don't know exactly when the fishes are going to come, but it shouldn't be too long.  Either that, or Bubs is going to stay a very long time in the water.

     I sighed and sat on the bank and waited.

*          *          *

     I think I fell asleep because when I heard a gunshot, I woke up.  I rubbed my eyes and looked out in the water.  Bubs was jumping up and down, shouting and screaming about fishes.

     "They're here.  The fishes are here."

     He blasted another round into the water.  From the bank, I saw two or three fishes float to the top.  Bubs turned around violently in the water and blew four more shells into the water.

     "Settle down, Bubs!" I yelled.

     "I got some! I got some fishes!"

     "Bubs!  You wanna wake papa?"

     That shut him up.

     RAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHRR!

     That also shut him up. 

     I was old enough to know, but I think I peed in my pants anyway.  That was a loud roar and it came from behind me.  To myself, I thought, Papa's roar is just a little bit softer than that.  Otherwise I would have thought it was papa.

     "Bubs," I said.  "Get outta that water."

     "What?"

     "Get outta that water!"  I turned and looked at Bubs.  He was frozen.

     "I can't!"

     "Shit!"  I covered my mouth, hoping papa didn't hear.  "Keep the gun ready then!"

     He nodded and I saw tears on his face.

     The trees rustled in the forest and I heard thumping footsteps getting deeper and louder.  I glued my eyes to the forest I thought it came from.  More footsteps.  Leaves moved and twigs cracked.

     And soon, the thing.

     Bushes parted and a hairy, fleshy thing came from between two of the bushes.  From behind me I swear I heard Bubs yell, "Bigfoot!"  I couldn't tell.  I watched the thing and I was getting ready to run if he came near me.

     He did get near me, and it didn't look like he had any intention. 

     The hairy thing was way taller than me.  I couldn't tell how tall he was but he towered over me.  As he passed by, he grunted.  He did look at me and I saw his blue eyes.  They didn't look like an animal's eyes or even a monster's eyes.

     Without stopping, he pushed the water from him with his strong legs and made his way towards Bubs.

     "Help me Jack!"  Bubs yelled to me.

     My stomach shrunk and squeezed itself like a fist.  In any world, there would be nothing I could do.

     "Shoot the gun at him!"   I yelled.  "Shoot the gun!"

     I watched Bubs raised the gun and aim it at the man, but he didn't shoot.

     "I can't move my finger!  I can't!  Help!  My finger!"  Bubs let the gun angle down into the water.

     The beast man moved much quicker in the water than Bubs did and reached Bubs faster than I could imagine.  For a second, the man looked down at Bubs and Bubs looked up at the beast man.

     "Don't hurt me," I think I heard Bubs say.

     He received a grunt in return.

     The thing grabbed the gun from Bubs and heaved it a good distance down the river.  The shotgun splashed the water up in a line of droplets.  A second later, after breaking the top seal on the water, it sunk.  And never came back up.

     I don't know why I was so hypnotized by the gun; I just plain forgot about my brother.  I turned my head back towards the middle of the river.  In the seconds I watched the gun, the monster had picked up Bubs and sloshed through the water towards the bank.  When he reached the bank, his feet left deep prints in dirt.  I stuck my own foot in and gawked that it was half as small.

     The monster dropped Bubs onto the bank and disappeared in the dark of the forest.  I looked at Bubs, who was crying, but didn't look sad or frightened.

     "Why you cryin?" I asked.

     "I don't know."

     "Are you scared?"

     "No."

     "Sad?"

     "No."

     I shrugged.

     "I want to follow him," Bubs said, surprising me.

     "What?"

     "Let's follow him.  I want to see where he lives."

     "Why?"

     "Cause he looks like a sad man."

     "Man?"

     "Yeah.  He's not a monster, like you said.  He's just real hairy."

     "How do you know?"

     Bubs paused.  "He told me.  He said he wasn't a monster."

     I started towards the forest.  Looking back, I saw that Bubs still lied on the ground.  "Well," I called.  "If you want to follow him, you best get up."

     Bubs finally got up and caught up with me.  We started walking.

     "Sorry about the gun," he said.

     The gun!  I forgot about the gun.  Papa would be in a very bad mood and probably blame us.

     "That's okay with me, but be ready to get a beating from Papa."

     Bubs nodded and looked down.  "I know."

     From the corner of my eye, I saw something move.  I grabbed Bubs by the shoulder and brought him to the ground with me.

     "Wh--?"

     "Shhhhh!" I said.  "He's over there."  I pointed.

     The hairy monster stood over a fire stirring something that spit a lot of black smoke in the air.  He stuck his finger in and tasted it.  He smiled and continued stirring.  Then he stopped and looked in our direction.

     A racing chill shot up my spine and neck and made my legs go weak.  I caught myself on Bubs.

     "You okay?" he asked.

     "Yeah, I'm fine.  Just felt a little weak."

     "Let's go."  And before I could say anything, Bubs broke from me and bolted towards the man.

     "Bubs," I whispered.  "Bubs, get back here."

     But I knew he wasn't going to listen to me, so I watched for a few seconds.

     My brother walked to the spot and smelled what was in it.  The monster grabbed a large leaf and scooped some of the liquid out.  He handed the leaf to Bubs, who drank the stuff.  What if it was poison?  Or something that Bubs was allergic to?  He sure wasn't being cautious.  I always told Bubs to be cautious about somebody you don't know.  They might harm you if you do what they want.

     Advice was suppose to be taken, not forgotten.  I must remember to tell him that.

     Bubs turned and faced me.  "It's ok, Jack.  Come on!  This soup is good!  Come on and have some!"

     The beast man reached down and got a bowl, poured some soup in it and handed it to Bubs.  He filled another bowl and Bubs set it next to him.  Bubs pointed to me then the bowl.  The man poured a bowl for himself and joined his new friend in feasting.

     I slowly came out from the bushes and strolled to the eating area.  When I got there, Bubs was on seconds and the man was headed towards the small cave.

     "What are you doing Bubs?" I asked.  "We should get back to camp."

     "I don't want to.  I like him."

     "Okay then, we'll stay until morning and that's it."

     "Good."  Bubs went back to his soup.

     We ate our soup in silence and not long after that, Bubs fell asleep on my leg and soon, I fell asleep to.

*          *          *

     I woke up first and caught a glimpse of the morning sun peeking through the trees.  I shook Bubs awake and he mumbled something before sitting up.

     "Bubs, let's go.  It's time to get back."

     "I humgarice..." he said.

     "Then let's get back to eat."

     I helped Bubs stand up and we headed back to the camp.

*          *          *

     The camp was in shambles when we reached it.  Tent shreds hung in trees and over logs; every piece of equipment was either ripped apart or in another part of the camp.  Some of Bub's and mine clothes were on the ground and as we walked further into the camp, we picked them up.

     Mama and grandma were calmly putting clothes into the car.

     "Mama?"

     She turned to me with wide eyes.  "Yes?"

     "What happened?  Where's Papa?"

     She pointed to the only tent left standing.  "In there," she mumbled.

     I walked to the tent and pulled back the flap and felt a rush of cold air knocking me down.

     Papa was bloody...very bloody.  Not only was he bloody, he laid in a lake of his own blood, dark red and thick.  His head was tilted back and a large, wide cut was on his neck.  I heaved once, then let the soup from last night fly through the air and land on Papa.  I got out.

     Bubs ran towards the tent, but I stopped him.

     "What?  I wanna see!"  He complained.

     "No. No you don't."

     "Why?"

     "Trust me!"

     He didn't ask again to see the tent.  Instead, he hunched down on a log and put his head in his hands.  Mama motioned for me to come over.

     "Jack, let me tell you what happened, just so you won't be all to curious."  She sat me down.  "Papa was doing very bad things to me.  Things that made me scream."

     "Things that hurt you?"

     "Don't interrupt."  She paused.  "Yes, things that hurt me.  I didn't like them and I scream loud.  It woke grandma up, but she is too weak to help me.  I know you weren't here and I'm glad you didn't have to hear me scream.  I yelled and scratched, but Papa just kept on doing those things.  I didn't think he was going to stop, but I looked over your Papa and saw something the made me faint."

     "What?"

     "There was this big, hairy monster standing outside the tent just staring at us.  He had brown hair and must have been at least 7 feet tall.  He stepped in the tent and that's when I fainted.  I woke up outside the tent lying next to the fire."  She stifled a tear.  "I knew what the monster did so I never looked in the tent."

     Mama stood me up.  "Now get Bubs and get in the car.  We're leaving."

     "What about Papa?"

     "We are going to leave him.  It's better this way."

     I nodded.

     I told Bubs to get in the car because we were going home.

     "Finally," he sighed.

     Mama and Grandma started the car and I opened my door.  I looked back into the woods and saw something moving through the trees.  The monster?  A bear?  A wolf?  Who knows what it was...I just know we were going home.

     It was better this way.

 

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