In dawns of yore, there traipsed a beast
For whom the body was a feast.
The bloody corpses marked the ground,
But, lo, the beast was never found.
~ Olden Legends, ca. 1650
When Andy Zambrano was less than 7 years old, he saw his mother being devoured by some sort of hideous creature that he could not identify, nor that he would ever be able to describe to anyone. He remained hidden and unmoving throughout the horror… perhaps frozen in fear, or perhaps due to some emergent instinct of survival. He was unable to look away though, and so the image of the creature stayed locked in his still developing mind.
It was a bipedal entity, although Andy learned this only when the creature was done, and it rose and walked away. But, during its bloody glutting, it remained on its knees, hunched over the body, tearing out organs and entrails with its very long fingers and claws. And at times, it would dip its horrible face into the open cavity of her upper body and make obscene slurping and sucking noises, much in the way that Andy did when he ate his cereal or soup.
The creature’s face was dirty and covered with blood at the time, but it showed an enormous wide jaw that closed with an exaggerated under bite, and which the creature seemed to use like a scoop at times. It did not seem to fit the mouth properly, and so, every time the creature raised its head and closed its mouth, or tried to chew something, much of the contents would spill and drool out the sides.
Its arms were thin and impossibly long, consisting of two elbows each, without which the creature would not have been able to reach its hand to its mouth. And its hind limbs were somewhat like a hare’s, with abnormally huge thighs, short thin legs, and long clawed feet.
The creature was not wearing any clothing, but was covered with enough fur so that its gender was not immediately evident. A short stubby tail was visible though, which the creature waggled grotesquely from time to time in expression of its delectation.
The entire repast took more than an hour, while Andy watched in stone-like shock, and a growing mental/emotional trauma. There was a moment when the creature turned its head, and for that timeless breathless moment, it appeared to be looking right at Andy. It was a detached and expressionless moment though, and the creature returned to its horrid activity as if Andy was not there.
The despicable thing ceased its defilement and rose at last, and it issued an appalling belch, deep and guttural, that gurgled and spewed red droplets. And then it turned and waddled out the door, and away towards the wood, dragging its arms in a somewhat careless manner.
Andy continued looking at his mother’s ravaged carcass, not knowing what to do next. There was no father to turn to… he had abandoned the woman shortly after Andy had been born.
He stepped forward into the gory room, and felt as if he was crossing from one world into another. He took a few steps and, sensing a presence behind him, he turned and thought he saw the creature standing right there within reach of him. He screamed and almost fell backwards… and then, he realized he had just seen himself in his mother’s upright mirror. His nerves and the dim light were distorting his senses.
Finally, he ran to the neighbors, the closest ones being almost a quarter of a mile away. It was early morning with the daylight barely breaking. But he knew that rural people are up early out of necessity.
Living the Dream
Louis MacAngus had just finished breakfast, and had things to do in the barn. He opened his front door and saw Andy down the road. Andy was so out of breath by now that his strides were clumsy and fitful, until he stumbled on his own feet and fell, crying out in despair. By the time Louis got to him, he was almost completely unconscious. Louis picked him up, and carried him home.
Andy opened his eyes and cried out at the same time, “ Mama-aa!” And he saw the kind concerned faces of Louis and his wife Edna looking down at him. He glanced around quickly, and saw that he was lying on their couch in their living room.
“What’s happened, child?” Edna asked. “Where is your mama?”
And then he pouted, and his eyes teared up, and his consciousness sank into a place where he couldn’t be found.
Louis went over to the Zambrano residence and discovered the horror. Soon, the sheriff and his deputies were looking over the scene. Someone said something about ‘the doings of a bear’, and someone else mentioned ‘a pack of wolves,’ and another still alluded to ‘a cougar.’ But none of these animals were known to exist in these parts, even out here in this rustic setting.
They tried talking to Andy, but he could not respond. His eyes were hollow and vacant, and when one could get him to turn his head so they could look at him, they saw only a deadpan stare, void of presence except for some deep unmentionable terror.
Since resources were few in the area, and they had known the family, Edna and Louis agreed to look after him until something else could be arranged. But nothing ever was. No family members could be found. And Edna and Louis raised Andy as their own.
In time, Andy recovered from his trauma enough to be somewhat communicative, enough to attend school, and enough to make some friends, and engage in the normal activities. He was never able to talk about what he had seen that night, and he continued to have nightmares that lessened in frequency and intensity over the years.
Some time after Andy had turned 12, Louis was found dead out in a field where he had been working. Andy learned only that he had died in an apparent accident, involving a farming machine, which had left his body too disfigured to show to anyone. And Andy remembered that this was similar to what they had said about his mother.
He listened from another room as they discussed with Edna the particulars of the case. It was very comparable to what they had seen before. It appeared to be the attack of an animal, though not any that anybody could identify. And to suppose that it might have been a person, crazed or otherwise, there seemed to be no explanation for the missing organs or the utter desecration of the body.
Edna reassured Andy that they would manage to live comfortably. Some neighbors offered to lease the fields. They had a large garden, and milk cows, and chickens that all produced enough surplus to sell. And she would sell off the unused machinery little by little. They would manage just fine.
And then, she began to age in a quiet dispirited manner… but she nurtured Andy as if he truly was her own. Andy did chores around the yard, but he never took to farming per se. He performed fairly in school without excelling in anything in particular. And as he grew older, he seemed to distance himself from his friends, and became somewhat of a loner.
He had occasional dreams and moments of recall that tended to fixate on those final images of his mother, and conjectured images of Louis lying out in the field, and these fixations were so accentuated that he seemingly could sense the smells and tastes and tactility of the corpses. And he was never quite sure of what he felt during these episodes.
He was only 20 when Edna passed away. She had been a robust woman… that is to say that she had not reached an age of fragility or needfulness. But the autopsy revealed that her heart had given out unexpectedly, as if she might have experienced or witnessed something extraordinarily alarming. The people at her funeral and burial observed that Andy did not shed any tears, although he did appear sad, and somewhat removed from the proceedings. And he walked away from the grave quietly, withdrawn, and without acknowledging the condolences bestowed upon him.
Andy spent some days in a state of depression during which some neighbors had to come and take care of those chores that could not go undone. One day, Andy said something very unexpected and peculiar to no one in particular, “She was always very kind to me… that’s why she died a natural death.”
The one who was there at the moment looked at him in wonderment, assuming that the young man was distraught. Then Andy asked him if he could look after things for a while longer. He expressed a desire to leave on a sabbatical of sorts; he wished to visit the neighboring towns. The neighbor and others who learned of his plans agreed that this might be good for him. They told him to take his time, and not to worry. His farm would be tended, and it would be there when he returned. Andy promised that he would return.
And return he did… after an absence of about six months. He was accompanied by a young woman who turned out to be his wife, Lilianne. Andy put the old farm up for sale, and they stayed at the farm where he had grown up with Louis and Edna. And in a gradual progression, things began to return to the quiet, normal, familiar thrum.
Andy still had not taken to farming, but considering everything, he did not really have to. He had sold a farmstead that he had inherited, and he was collecting revenues from the other farm’s land leases, in addition to selling eggs, milk, and butter, and surplus vegetables from the garden. He and Lilianne had a comfortable easy-going life. And they soon had a child.
In a meshing of names, they named the boy Landrew. There was for a time, all the warmth and joy that could be expected from a close-knit family. But then, before the boy was all of six months, Andy disappeared, leaving a note that betrayed sentiments of uncertainty and unhappiness on his part. And Lilianne and Landrew Zambrano carried on alone.
In the middle of night, with a sense of familiarity, but no certainty, Andy wandered into the nearby wood. He fell to his knees and gazed at the stars. After some time, he was bathed in a hazy violet light that streamed from above, and his body began to dissipate, to dissolve into flake-like minute particles that rose like smoke, following the stream of light into its source. There, the particles were contained in a life-supporting canister, and his consciousness was engaged with an audio/visual program of distant memories… memories of who he really was, and where he came from. And there he remained for some years.
Andy learned and remembered in his dream-like containment that he was an other-dimensional being from an environmentally hostile place. He was called Azjuwahn, but he didn’t know if this was his name or his race. His recollections tormented him. He gradually came to realize that this was normal, and the only way to alleviate his own torment was to hurt others.
When it was deemed by his tormentors that he had suffered enough, he was released back through the portal to the benevolent planet that he had come to know. He found himself back in the wood, the backdrop of the place he had called home. It was the middle of night. In addition to his emotional and mental agony, he was uncomfortable in his physicality… his arms and his lower limbs were awkwardly different. And his mouth did not feel right. He walked towards the old house, and he felt a mixture of urgency, resistance, and compulsion.
When he entered the house, he was clumsy about it, and it awoke Lilianne. What she saw in the living room made her freeze just long enough for the repulsive thing to slash her throat with a swing of its claws. The immediate flow of blood elicited a perverse thirst and hunger in him, and he quickly straddled her fallen body, chewing and sucking at the wound in her neck.
He pushed his hands into her abdomen and pulled her rib cage apart, and he then began feeding on her organs, wolfishly and single-mindedly. Never once did it enter his conscience that this had been his wife, and they had shared some tender and intimate moments together. She was nothing but blood and flesh now, and he savored her in the most depraved way. This was the sort of interaction that allayed the disturbance in his thoughts and senses.
He raised his head after a while, and turned and saw himself in the upright mirror… a wide-eyed little boy, frozen in stupefaction. Without any thought, he returned to his gluttonous orgy.
At last, after more than an hour’s time, he had consumed everything within the torso’s cavity, and he paused, looking at her ravaged corpse and her delicate face, which still held that initial countenance of horror. He looked at her almost in the same manner as he had done when they had consummated their union, and he began to feel those pangs of torment swirling within him again.
He stood up awkwardly. He was so full that he felt inebriated, and he found it difficult to balance himself. He belched and regurgitated some of his ingested contents, and some of it spilled out of his ill-fitted mouth and ran down his body. He looked around, and saw the door through which he had entered, and he walked out on the pads of his feet, rocking heavily from side to side and dragging his hands absent-mindedly. When he reached the edge of the wood, he began to experience a searing heat. He was overcome by a pale purplish incandescence, and he dissolved into ashes that quickly dissipated in the breeze.
In the house, Landrew stepped into the room where his mother’s scavenged corpse lay, and he felt an odd sensation, as if he had just crossed over from some other world. An inexplicable wariness made him turn, and he saw that same hideous creature, and then realized that he was looking at himself in the upright mirror.
It was still dark outside, but he could hear the animals stirring about. The only thing he could think of doing was to run to the neighbors down the road. He took one last look at his mother and pouted painfully, knowing he would never be able to relate what had just happened.
And then he ran as fast as he could. The beautiful innocent child in him could not possibly know that he was now possessed by a demon… dormant for the time being.
r. nuñez, 4/2019