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When I was a kid I stayed with my great aunt while my mom was at work. My best friends were the twins whose backyard came up against my aunt’s yard. There was a park nearby that the four of us would ride our bikes to. We always loved to play there with the old playground equipment, but even as a kid the place seemed off. There were never other people at the park, no matter what time we went, despite being on the edge of a newly built subdivision with plenty of kids.
In the middle of the woods were the remnants of house, a foundation and the chimney. Further out the woods had a clearing, an access road to a private club, and then more woods with a creek we liked to play in. The clearing had a place where it pushed into the woods a little more, like a cul-de-sac. It wasn’t really visible unless you were looking from the park side of the woods. Down by the creek there was a fence to sneak around and a few rusted out cars on the edge of the path.
I remember one time, I saw my aunt leaving a little dish with some food scraps in a blue porcelain bowl in the old chimney. I’d never noticed it before, but thinking back, I probably just never noticed it tucked back there. She’d tapped the bowl a few times against the brick and walked us down to play in the creek.
One summer, there was a rickety tree house on the cul-de-sac part of the clearing. I remember my aunt and uncle talking about it not long after we found it. The kids who pieced it together were gone, it’d fallen and they didn’t survive. To this day, they’ve never found any remains, nor can I find any records of it happening.
Over the years I'd forgotten about Bush-Dell Park. Recently I was in the neighborhood and something told me to go check on the old place. It has been fifteen years since I last visited the park, but not a thing had changed. The slides and swings were still in the same mediocre condition they were in back then, My aunt used to always hum a certain melody when we were at the park, and as I got out of the car it was like I could hear her humming faintly.
As I walked further into the park, the melody seemed to get louder. I was walking towards the entrance to the woods, and it occurred to me that it was someone in the woods singing, not just my fond memories. I snuck up off the trail and followed the noise as quietly as I could. Eventually, I found my singer, standing over by what was left of the old chimney. It was my aunt’s neighbor, though last time I heard she could barely walk, or see for that matter.
I sat and watched her. She tapped the bowl inside the fireplace a few times, just like my aunt did. Then I heard gentle clanking of metal. I looked around myself, but nothing appeared out of the ordinary. The trees rattled in the wind, I assumed the fence was rattling. The sound was creeping up on me, but there still wasn’t anything around me. Lydia was gone the next time I looked at the chimney. Out of nowhere, this stench hits me. The closest thing I can compare it to is some mixture of death and excrement.
I made the biggest mistake of my life when I looked up. The long, scarred, muscular arms stretched out in the branches, the weathered, bearded face. The metal sound wasn’t the fence, it had to have been the chains wrapped around this things wrists, ankles and waist. His mouth just hung open with these big vacant eyes. He didn’t notice me, or just didn’t care.
He moved through the trees, not in the nimble way that a monkey would, but also considerably better than any person. He jumped down onto the crumbled foundation and started gnawing down whatever was in the bowl. From behind I could see that it looked like some chains had become embedded in his back. He rose up and released an inhuman scream to the sky. I stayed as still as I could.
I turned and started to slink back towards the park. I could already hear grunts and chains behind me. I took a sharp turn. I don’t know why. I was running as hard as I could, and it seemed like the chains and grunts kept going as if I hadn’t turned. I started to notice the smell of death, again. The telltale grunts and chains couldn’t be heard, but as I kept running the smell got stronger.
I probably ran past the first few warnings that I was in the wrong place. As I ran, I started noticing bones hanging from the tree limbs from wires. If I had to guess, some of them were probably human femurs by the size and shape, but it’s hard to say since they appeared to have some of the ends gnawed almost to a point. The trail turned small, the size of trail you’d expect a few kids on bikes to wear in after a few summers.
Just off the edge of the trails every now and then I’d spot a small animal skull, usually resting against a tree. I crept along the path, the bones hanging grew in frequency, and started to look more and more carved. I came to a clearing, and there was Lydia. She threw some kind of raw meat into a stone circle and started walking straight towards me.
“What is that, Lydia?”
“Someone your aunt wanted taken care of.”
I heard the rattling of chains behind me. I turned around, but I couldn’t see it. Not on the ground, not in the trees. I turned around. Lydia was gone. I turned and there it was, towering over me. I’m a little over six feet tall, and it was still a couple feet taller. It’s mouth fell open and let out deep groan, the smell should have knocked me over.
I hit it. I hit it with everything I’ve ever had, or ever will have. Right in the mouth, right in those jagged, brown, yellow and black teeth. The thing didn’t even stagger, it grabbed it’s mouth and it’s eyes filled with hate. I ran, through the fence, through the park, back to my car. Every step the chains and tree rattling got closer to me. The last I saw it was standing in the gate of the fence.
I called the police from the car, I told them about the bones and where they were. I figured they’d sort out that thing if they found it. I drove to Lydia’s. Everything in the neighborhood was quiet. I banged on the door. Her daughter opened the door.
“Hi, is Lydia home?”
“She hasn’t been here in a long time.”
“Is there any way I can visit with her? I have a few questions about my aunt.”
She paused, “Is it about the thing in the park?”
I was floored, how did she know? “Yeah, I saw her feeding it or something.”
“She told me she’d promised your aunt that she would try to keep him calm.”
“Who is it?”
“I’m not really sure. She said privately that it may have been your aunt’s son. That thing isn’t human though, is it?”
“I don’t think so.”
Our conversation was cut short by a phone call. It was the police station. They said I was too old to be making prank calls. Apparently there was a clearing there, but no bones, no burrow. I excused myself from Lydia’s house. If anyone knew what was in those woods, it would be her sister.
I made the call in the driveway. “Grandma, did Aunt Genevieve ever have a son?”
The line was dead for a moment, “I suppose she did give birth to one. He died shortly after birth, he had so many things wrong with him.”
“Are you sure she didn’t hide him away in the park by her house?”
“I love you, but please leave that monster alone. All Genie ever wanted was for that...thing to find a place to live.”