I need to say firstly, that this is just an excerpt from something else I've been fooling around with. By no means is it a complete story. Secondly, it has very little to do with Jim's woods. Especially because this is fiction, where the stories of 'Jim's woods' are autobiographical in nature. I wanted to see what it looks like out here/there and also to see what kind of reaction I get, if any. Thanks for taking a look. James E.B.
Mike. What the hell happened to you?
He looked about and saw a ramshackle looking, single story house, a few hundred yards away. It was surrounded by waist high weeds and had a swayback roof with curling tiles. At first Danny guessed it was abandoned, but then he saw an old man standing on what passed for a porch, staring at him. Danny raised his hand in a wave and the old man just turned and went inside. Huh... Well he figured if he was going to play detective, he was gonna ask the old man a few questions. What the fuck. He didn't care what the old coot thought, he was usually beyond caring what other people thought of him, so he'd bounce a couple questions off the old guy, what harm could that do anyway? A grassy lane, what looked to be a tractor path, ran from the railway up beside the old house joining it's gravel driveway. Danny walked deliberately up the lane with weeds swishing against his knees. He kept his eyes peeled for the old guy, but didn't see him anywhere and the windows of the house were covered in tattered plastic, so they were no help either. He stepped up onto the sloping porch and could immediately smell a foul odour emanating from within the gloom of the old place. Musty boxes and newspapers were stacked up high just inside the doorway . Danny leaned forward, peering through the rusty screen and went to rap on the frame of the door, when he heard a raspy voice directly behind him.
"What do you want?" the old man demanded and Danny jumped out of his skin. He spun around quickly, surprised to see the man standing just a few feet away. He hadn't heard him come through the grass and he hadn't heard any other doors to the house opening or closing. Didn't this old guy just walk inside? Danny thought. Swallowing hard, Danny said, as strongly as he could manage, "Hi there. Sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions...if you don't mind."
"About what now?" The old man replied.
Danny had been taking him in as they faced each other and he was alarmed by what he saw.
The old man stood stooped over, like how a hunchback would stand and he may not have been as old as Danny had first thought. In fact it was hard to tell. The guy could've been as old as seventy, but at the same time he could have passed for being forty something too. He had a filthy ball cap jammed on his head, pulled way down low so the brim covered his eyes. Dark eyes, menacing eyes that glittered when he moved. He looked like he was bone thin, by the baggy, dirty clothes he wore, but he carried himself with some kind of coiled strength. Like an old fashioned spring, that with one wrong move could explode, knocking your block off. Even though Danny stood taller on the porch and should be looking down at him, the guy seemed to grow, filling his vision, like some optical illusion or something. He felt entranced and he had to tear his eyes away from that glittering stare. Danny stammered, trying to find words.
"About my friend that died the other night." He couldn't tell if he had yelled the words, or whispered them, or if he'd even said anything at all. He found he was locked in the stare again and physically turned his head away, breaking the spell, or whatever it was... his mouth had gone dry and swallowed, trying to find some spit.
The old man grinned at him. . . (What the fuck? What's so funny about that?) Danny thought.
But now it was a grimace and the old man wrung his hands, his long fingers twisting into each other. "Well that's just awful about your friend." He said with a snarl. "Tell me more. What exactly happened to him?" . . . (I didn't say it was a him, or her...)
Danny realized now that the stink wasn't coming from inside the house, but the old man himself, or maybe it was both. Danny finally found himself and stepped off the porch, out of the gloom and into the sunlight, feeling stronger now. "He died on the railroad tracks about a mile from here." He said pointing towards the village. "He was attacked by something. A creature." He added, avoiding the old man's eyes.
"Hmmm..." the old man said and pivoted towards Danny, floating like. "You sure he wasn't mowed down by a train?"
"I'm sure." Danny said, "He had his throat torn out."
"Wild dogs'll do that to you." The old man grinned, or grimaced again. "We got em around here ya know? I hear em howling sometimes." Fingers twisting, nails black with filth, or age...
"Yeah I know." Danny said, "I've seen them myself." and he thought of the poor unwanted mutts brought from the city and dropped off in the country by their heartless owners. "This was something else..."
"The Lion Safari." The old man said. It was a statement, as if he'd read Danny's thoughts and this time he was smiling.
"I was just wondering if you'd heard anything last Friday night, maybe 2 or 3 in the morning?"
The old man chuckled and Danny had a vision...bloody chunks of bone in a blender, at least that's what it sounded like. Horrible. Thick and clotted. . . (oh my god...)
"I would have been fast asleep by then." The old man muttered. "I get to drinking..." and he trailed off. Then with alarming speed he was at Danny's side clutching his bicep, hurting him. "Now if that's all you've got, I have work to do." He released his grip before Danny could even protest and hustled into his house, slamming the old wooden door from within.
Danny looked around at the waist high grass and the old house, folding in on itself with time and neglect. . . (Work?!)
Time passed and a couple of weeks went by relatively uneventfully. Mike's funeral had been a depressing occasion. His mother and sister crying in the front pews of the church. Some people, relatives he guessed, had gone up and laid flowers on Mike's coffin, closed casket obviously. Danny felt compelled to do something, he wasn't sure what. So he went to the front and stood at Mike's casket, he reached out and touched the cold polished wood. It was the best he could do as a send off. He didn't plan on watching them bury him at the cemetery. He'd be visiting there on his own plenty enough, he figured. He turned and looked at Mike's sister Carrie, who'd been crying the entire time and she glared at him with red rimmed eyes. Danny thought, What? What the hell did I do? I just found him for Christ sake!That's bad enough... But he didn't say a word. He just cast his eyes downward and without waiting for his brothers, left the church. He went outside and lit a cigarette. Some of the parents that stood off in the parking lot gave him disapproving looks for smoking and he figured he'd hear about it from his mom, or maybe his dad, he was still only 17 after all, but fuck 'em. What did he care? Jesus. These people! He thought and kicked at a stone. Suddenly the door opened and Kevin came out, followed by Bobby and James.
"That sucked!" Bobby and James said in unison and plopped on a bench. Kevin was quiet. Aloof, or hurting.
"Well what did you expect? It's a fucking funeral!" Danny said. More disapproval from the parking lot.
"Don't swear." Kevin mumbled, eyeing the parents warily. "We're at church."
"Right. Like God gives a shit? Look what he let happen to Mike!" Maybe a little too loudly, because at this, one of the parents shook their head and started walking over. Before Danny had a chance to hear what they'd say, he stepped on his cigarette butt and stalked off towards home.
Somewhere in the depths of the filthy house came a crash. The old man stumbled into his stinking kitchen, the dregs from a whiskey bottle sloshed in his hand.
"Ha ha!" he cackled throwing open his fridge, "Here we gooo...! Here we go again." He sang .
He stared coldly at the contents of the refrigerator. Nothing much was in there. An empty bottle of ketchup, an open can of flat beer, some jars of something, he didn't care what and a human leg, a child's leg. The thigh muscle had been gnawed to the bone. The calf untouched, was shriveled and dark. It was old. He closed the door and it clapped shut. He spun around, taking a swig of whiskey and spun again, more whiskey. He careened towards the screen door and pushing through it, drained the last of the whiskey bottle. It fell from his gnarled hand into the weeds and he groaned, looking up at the night sky. In a final fit of laughter, he collapsed on the sloping porch, twitching. The full moon, unfeeling, looked down from above.
From far away he heard a voice calling his name.
Jean... getting closer, but still very far away. Jean where are you? Come back. You have to kill the beast.
Inside him an old machine kicked into life, gears turning, engine revving. Bones cracking, tendons stretching, muscles popping into place, skin morphing...his blood thickened, turning black, like one of those canals in olde Paris, hiding the bodies of the dead, slow and dark and stinking, ancient and long forgotten. The machine revved faster now. Jean's groans climbing into wails of agony, screaming in pain and now howling with fear. The fear had never left him. NEVER!
A faded memory . . .
He stood in the forest clearing, Captain Jean Baptiste Duhamel and the boy, Francois Valet. By a beautiful river in the Cevennes mountains, facing the beast. It paced restlessly before them. It was furious, having been pierced by two of Jean's arrows. They stuck out at angles from it's back. Any other creature, Stag, or even a large brown bear would have been felled by these wounds. Jean's bow was powerful and his arrows were tipped with iron, sharpened by the blacksmith into razors, yet the beast was only angered. There had been no blood trail to follow. The boy, Francois trembled visibly and the lance in his hands quivered. "Spread out." The Captain said to him. He feared for the boy's safety, Christ, he feared for his own. He had been teaching the boy how to hunt, but he should have never agreed to bring the lad. Even though the boy protested loudly and insisted that he avenge his sister Marie, he should not have brought him out here. Yet nothing could be done now, so here they were. He and Francois separated in the sunny clearing, creating a gap between them, in case the beast chose to flee. Slowly, Captain Jean drew his bow tight, his muscles straining and loosed an arrow at the creature's snarling face. With incredible speed, it dodged it, he'd missed. He drew his sword instead. The boy took this as a sign to attack and lunged with his lance. "NO!" Jean yelled, but the boy's aim was true and the tip of the lance disappeared into the beast's left eye. It howled with anger and grasped the haft with both claws, the boy hanging on for dear life to the other end. It pulled the point from it's eye and before anything could be done it swung the lance. The boy bounced off a tree and fell to the forest floor. The beast rushed in and fell on the boy. Bright red blood sprayed high into the air and as Jean closed the gap swinging his sword, wishing to save Francois. The beast darted swiftly, disappearing suddenly from view. His sword cleaved the air instead and he stood defeated, looking down at the headless boy. Blood still pumped from the ragged mess of his neck, his young heart refusing to die. Jean stared in wonder. How? What is this mad creature?What kind of demon is this? How can it be killed? Then he heard it's grunt, behind him... The King's Captain, Jean Baptiste Duhamel swung his sword as he'd been taught. Both hands on it's hilt, combining speed and force in his pivot from waist and foot. Sword held waist high in a killing stroke meant to disembowel, meant to cut his opponent in two, meant to finish the fight once and for all...and of course, he thought grimly. It's much faster than I. And he was right.While his sword swept through air and only air, the creature drew it's claw across his stomach. Slicing easily through his thick leather waistcoat and his cotton garment and his belly fat and it's muscle and as Jean sank to his knees holding his intestines in place with cupped hands, a ten man portion of the King's guard charged into the clearing in full battle armour. The beast disappeared quickly into the vast woods of the foothills in the Cevennes...no one gave chase. Jean survived, but he'd failed. He'd failed his King, he'd failed Francois, worst yet he'd failed himself and the impoverished town of Gevaudan and it's many victims. He exiled himself. Eventually leaving France and taking a ship overseas to America, huddled miserably, seasick and puking in perpetual storm, with a score of poor Dutch immigrants...
His mother's voice called to him. Jean! Come home! You must kill the beast!
But don't you see mother? I AM the beast now, I've become the beast.
The moon grinned down like a fucking lunatic now.
So he had. So he had.
About the Creator
I was raised outside of Ancaster, Ont. I write about what I know and what I've survived. I'm not good at writing fiction, I hope I'm better at autobiography. I welcome constructive criticism, almost as much as compliments. So let's hear it!