I get a real kick out of Halloween. There is something about a holiday that allows, ney, encourages adults and children to explore their wildest, grossest, princessy-est dreams. In our house, even Otter gets in on the celebration.
|Princess Wild Bill Otter|
|Victim of Otter-napping|
|Beats by Dre-Otter|
Hope your Halloween is everything you dream of and may all your candy bars be full size!
|Frank Sin-Otter says 'Do it Yourrrrr Way'!|
AND NOW: a little scare.
I had a request to post one more scary story, in honor of the season. This one first appeared in the now out of print Vicious Dead anthology and later in the on-line magazine 69 Flavors of Paranoia, a publication which sadly, is now only a memory. Please enjoy...with the lights one.....
My Dad said that once an animal gets a taste for blood its all over. I consider this as I watch the dog padding towards me on the other side of the street. We had an old farm dog once, killed a calf by running it down. The calf was only a day old and the dog was fast. I remember seeing the calf’s blood matted in the dog’s muzzle and the wild look in his eye as he watched Dad walk towards him.
That wild look is in the stray dog’s eye as well. Blood is matted in his muzzle. He is not moving slowly but rather walking with an almost deliberate gait. He swings his head back and forth independent of the swing of his tail, which he is holding at a neutral level to his body--not friendly but not afraid. It is the same way our old dog held his tail as he stood and walked toward my dad.
Dad shot him with a 0.22.
Memory over. I watch the real live dog as he pads to the curb. He sits and fixes his stare on me. I sink back into the shadow as recognition makes a brief appearance.
His name is Bink, the old man’s dog from down the hall. The old guy walked bent over like so many old people do. Bink and the old man were there for as long as I stayed in the building, which would have been two years next week had the old man lived.
But, he didn't live. He died alone in his apartment, alone save for Bink. The howling started on a Tuesday. I couldn’t get the super to let me in. He had disappeared.
I finally broke the door open with a tire iron. Bink barked as the wood split but ran when I pushed the remainder of the frame and shattered door aside. He stood in the dining room, hair standing in a stripe down his back, his tail tucked tightly between his legs. I could see the old man’s head and shoulders lying on the floor behind the dog.
Thinking back, I should have known. The smell should have given something away. Actually, it was a lack of smell. The air in the apartment was stagnant and heavy and in my heart I knew I should be smelling a rotten odor like bad lunch meat or at least the foul smell of dog shit. But there was no odor.
I called to Bink, not the old man. I called him quietly, waving my fingers in a "come on" gesture. The dog responded without hesitation, moving from stock still to full speed and nearly knocking me over as he barreled into my open arms. His rough tongue ran the length of my arm and up to my face before he turned and made a break for the open door.
My fingers looped around his collar as he began to make a sound, though I couldn’t call it a whine or a growl. It was somewhere in between those things and whatever the noise would be called, it made the hair on my arms and on the back of my neck stand as stiff and straight as the hair down Bink’s back. I had little time to qualify the sound with anymore specifics, since the old man was moving.
He staggered from the dining room hunched over and dragging his left leg. His skin was transparent and yellow like an old photograph. There were places on his arms where the skin curled from the bone just like the edges of the photo would curl from a page. I could see areas of decay at his elbows and knees. It looked to me as though he had been leaning on all four bony prominence for a very long time.
Bink snarled and bared his teeth and the old man raised his head. Hollow eyes stared our way, hollow yet aware. Cold nerves ran through my body and I stood, releasing my grasp on Bink’s collar. The dog ran into the hall.
I did not have time to brace for the assault, never anticipating the old man could move so quickly. His fragile body landed on me and knocked me to the floor.
I felt the crunch of his wrist as the bones crushed on impact with the floor. I pressed up with both arms in an attempt to throw him off of me but he opened his mouth and bit down. His teeth sank into the fleshy part of my inner arm as his hollow staring eyes looked somewhere far away.
“Taste for blood…” repeats as a chorus in my head.
Expletives born of shock and pain flooded the room as I ripped my arm from the old man’s mouth. Only, I couldn’t pull free. His jaw was locked down and he continued twisting and tearing at the flesh, finally succeeding in securing a mouthful of skin and muscle.
Bile rose in my throat as I watched the old man chew and swallow the better part of my right arm. His knees pinned my thighs and his hands held my shoulders. Blood fell in one artistic drop onto my forehead as the old man watched carefully for intruders to his feast.
I can see that farm dog ripping at the calf’s hide.
The old man was strong. But he was still 80 years old and I was much younger and stronger. I took a second to calm my stomach; there would be time to vomit later. As he lowered his head to take another bite, I raised mine. Our skulls cracked together with a dull thud and I used the surprise to press up once more and throw the old man off. A hideous whine echoed through the rooms of the apartment.
That farm dog’s name was Rex.
In response, Bink appeared at the open door. He coiled and sprang past me and onto his owner. The old man growled, grabbing for the dog as the animal crashed into him. His hands gripped Bink by the throat and I could see the light in Bink’s eyes begin to fade.
My arm throbbed and blood dripped from my fingertips as I moved towards the man and his dog. I swung my left fist at the old man’s head but not before he bit into the dog’s leg. I am wholly right handed and the southpaw swing was laughable at best. It only seemed to irritate the man and did nothing to prevent him from biting deeper. Afraid he would succeed in simultaneously strangling the dog and ripping its leg off, I let instinct take over and I lunged forward again.
This time, I attacked in kind and let my teeth sink into the old man’s shoulder. Immediately a bitter decaying taste filled my mouth. Inhaling, my nostrils filled with an acrid, earthy smell.
“Taste for blood…”
The old man howled and released his hold of Bink. The dog landed in a scurrying heap. He twisted and turned as his feet slid in the pool of blood accumulating on the floor. When he at last gained his footing he ran from the apartment his tail tucked neatly between his legs.
The old man lay in a daze, his breath puffing, his left hip loose from its socket.
I too ran from the room, across the hall and into my own home. My arm throbbed with each heartbeat and I sat on the edge of my couch, watching in fascination as my blood and my life splattered rhythmically to the floor. I counted three thousand and forty six drops before it went dark...
I hear the explosion of the gun and see Rex recoil--his blood splattered outward, a sanguine firework.
I did not see Bink again. Until now.
Now. It is dusk and the streets are wet so I guess it has rained. Time seems to have progressed but I do not know where in the minutes and hours of a day I belong. Bink sits across the street and chews his back. To relieve an itch, I suppose. When he is satisfied he looks back in my direction and snarls. His teeth are yellowed and even in the poor light of early evening I can see saliva drip from the sharp edge of the incisors.
Show no fear. The words echo through my head and are gone. The sudden clarity startles me and as I gasp in surprise I catch a deep breath.
The sulfur smell of exhaust permeates the air but there are more subtle scents as well. I inhale again, nose raised to the sky and catch the musky smell of the dog across the street and the sweet earthy odor of blood. I raise my mangled arm and sniff then return to smell in Bink’s direction--the same blood smell, fainter but present.
Clarity of thought. I don’t feel as though I am actually thinking. My brain is bombarded with smells that signal a response. I feel the pupils in my eyes constrict as they focus on movement to my left. I turn slowly. A street light has begun to glow and its rays reveal a figure in the window by which I stand.
Vacant eyes, yellow, peeling skin...an image of the old man...but he is gone and this man moves as I do. I snarl and bare my teeth and he does the same but he does not move closer. Gingerly I raise my nose to the glass and sniff. There is no unfamiliar odor and as I move closer the intruder disappears.
From across the street there is a single, questioning bark. The dog is standing, sighting farther down the street.
I ease my head out from around the corner of the building. Parking meters line the street, several still occupied with deserted cars. The rain has formed puddles near the curb. I hear a lapping noise and catch a glimpse of the dog as he drinks. My mouth is suddenly, noticeably dry.
I drop to the curb and drink as well. The water is cool and bitter. I can taste bits of oil and grit but it quenches. At least for now. I stand and wipe my mouth with my damaged arm. Fresh blood smears across my face and my tongue flicks out and licks it off my lips. This is fresh and sweet. My gut rumbles in response. I am starved.
A distant sound catches my attention and I cock my head as Bink does the same. We both cease movement and I listen intently. My ears pick up a thin high whimper. Inhaling in the direction of the noise yields a floral scent. The smell is light, chemical and mixed with a baser musky smell.
I feel a twinge of anticipation as the hair on the back of my neck and on my arms and legs ripples to attention. My muscles tense and I breathe deeply. Bink snorts and I look his way.
The dog is coiled back on his haunches ready to run and I squat in a runners mark. We both scent the air once more as the woman breaks from her hiding place behind the dumpster. I feel instinct rising up with a rumbling growl in answer to the essence of what I am. What we all are...
“When an animal gets the taste of blood...well, that’s the end...”
No Dad, it's just the beginning…
(Laura.Ehlers. This is my story. Please don't steal it. If you are interested in publication or better yet, screenplay-ing check out my Call Me page.)