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Since I turned twenty-one, I had tried a lot of drinks. The one I really fell in love with was the Black Russian. Kahlua and Vodka had to be the best combination since cigarettes and coffee. Hell, even cigarettes and Kahlua paired well. So I sat there on my couch, eyes fixed dead ahead, sipping on a Black Russian. If any night warranted a drink that good, that was the one. One hand on my drink, the other holding my father's journal, I unfocused my eyes but wouldn't move them. For some reason, I felt compelled to just keep staring at a spot in front of me. Like maybe if I stayed fixated ahead it might change things. Finally I resigned myself to reading the journal. Before actually opening it though, I checked my phone. It was half past two in the morning. I couldn't help but laugh as I set the phone down on the cluttered coffee table. The weekend was still a few days off so I would have to be in the office bright and early. But I couldn't sleep. At this rate, I wouldn't be able to drag myself to work. You know what, I thought to myself, I won't even call in. I had been working seven days a week for almost a month at that point. My boss seemed to like me quite a bit, for whatever reason. I could miss one day. Besides, I had too much to do.
I mixed myself one more Black Russian. Liquor warmed my veins and I understood why people called it “liquid courage”. The cold tile seemed to suck at my feet as I made my way back to the couch. My father had always been a tender subject. I could admit that to myself, but if anyone else asked I would just shy away from the subject. He and I hadn't talked for five years by the time he died. Sitting there with his life in my hands, or at least a portion he had decided to write down, I started to regret that. Even with him gone, rifling through his private thoughts felt wrong.
The only light on in the whole house was that kitchen light. Shadows filled every corner. Dimly reflecting off of the television screen in front of me, it cast dull secondhand illumination but left the majority of the living room still dark. Just the fact that I was thinking in those terms let me know that I was drunk enough to start reading. When I flipped open the journal to the place my father left marked, the rustling of the paper sounded like it happened behind me. Jerking my head around, I looked down the black hallway that led to my room. My door swayed ever so slightly. I never felt my heart speed up but in that moment I could hear it pounding against my eardrums. Dum, dum. Dum, dum like a tribal war cadence. I knew I had left the door open. I knew that for any number of reasons the door might waver. But given my state of mind, I was still bothered. And I had been hearing creaks and groans in the walls all night.
When I was a child, my father had told me the story before. But when I opened the journal, the smell of decades old cigarette smoke escaped from the pages, and something felt different about it. There was just enough light to allow me to read without squinting and just enough alcohol in me to resign me to reading the legend my father left me.
Our family, the Rodriguez family, used to be very wealthy. When the Americans started to settle Texas, the head of the family, Ismael Rodriguez, taught them a lot. He taught them how the Vaqueros did things. Behind Ismael’s direction, the Rodriguez family showed the Americans how to survive, how to prosper. As such, he ended up with a large collection of ranches, and made quite a lot of money. Not only did he teach them, but he provided them with a lot of guns. In the south, things were rough, but in Texas they were almost hellish. One of the men put in charge of Texas would say throughout his life, “If I owned Hell and Texas, I would rent out Texas. And live in Hell.” Since things were so hard there, those guns were important to survive.
Ismael grew the family’s wealth exponentially for a few years. Since he had his hands in a lot of what went on in Texas, he didn’t have to work as hard as most people and expanded his land almost to the size of a small town. He provided for his family in a way that most men back then couldn’t.
Ismael was a mean bastard, though. Even before the success he would fight any man that so much as looked at him wrong. But with all that money and power, he could gun down men in the streets and everyone would look away in fear of being next. He was the law in that town. No lawman would come near him. And if they crossed his path, they would all but bend the knee. Not only was he ruthless, he was horrible in every sense. He would bed married women without a second thought. And if they wouldn’t succumb to his money and charm, he would take them by force. Whenever he got his hand on a woman, he wouldn’t just have his way with them, he would do it in his home. His whole extended family lived in that house. A mansion though it was, everyone could hear what he was up to in that place. His wife especially. But she couldn’t leave him. She couldn’t take the kids and grandparents and uncles away from there. They were never allowed to leave the property.
Back then, God was an important part of everyone’s lives. Ismael wouldn’t let them go to the church in town though. His family was essentially in prison. Finally, one day his abuelita came to him almost on the verge of tears, pleading for that wicked man to let them go to church to worship. However evil the man was, he respected that little old woman. So he decided to employ a priest to come to the home, to give mass to the family on Ismael’s land.
Ismael brought a woman home on a Sunday. He dragged her into the room they used as a chapel and didn't bother to lock the door. This woman had refused him many times and managed to get away. But the fact that he had been unable to have her became something of an obsession with the man. He pinned her to the altar and forced himself on her. The first person to catch Ismael was the priest. And behind him was the rest of the family. The woman screamed and managed to break a hand free. She sliced Ismael's cheek wide open with her nails and tried to run. But she tripped down the couple of steps from the altar. Falling to her knees, she looked up at Ismael, face bleeding and gored. Blood covered half of his face, running down his neck and soaking his shirt collar. His eyes were bloodshot, angry, glazed with hate.
"No man in your family, now or ever, will ever be happy again," the woman said with all her conviction, and Ismael, bloodied at the altar, laughed.
Behind me I heard a creak. My heart started pounding in my ears again. When I looked back to where I heard the noise, my door was wavering again. All my life I had been a fearful person. As the adrenaline faded, that cold feeling rinsed my veins clean. My fight or flight response was to freeze in place. Just to make myself feel better, to convince myself that nothing could get me, I got off of the couch to close my bedroom door. Walking down the short hallway, I could almost feel the darkness grow. Fear of the unknown, fear of the possible crept over my back, making my skin cold and my hairs stand on end. I walked faster and flicked on the hall light, holding my breath. The crack in the doorway seemed so much darker in the light and I refused to look. If I looked, something might look back. I might see it. It might see me.
I slammed the door shut. Calm eased its way back in, slowly but surely. With the door closed, I turned away and didn’t worry. Nothing could see me through the door. When I was younger, I owned a cat. He was a mean little bastard and had this habit of always tearing at the carpet. It felt good against his claws. I froze in the hall as I heard that familiar pop, pop, pop of a carpet being lightly ravaged. Between the sets of pops, was the sound of something sliding against the carpet. Since I was a child, I had dragged my feet. I knew the sound. It wasn’t just something sliding, it was the sound of flesh sliding over carpet. No furniture being moved could make the same sound. Something made of meat was trailing over the carpet. And it was in front of me. In the low light, I couldn’t see it. But I knew it was behind the couch in the living room… That’s where I would hide, if I was it.
My leg muscles tightened, and they almost stopped me from walking at all. My body and mind were fighting against me but I had to go back and sit down.
There is nothing there, Nick. I told myself. This is all in your head. Fear can trick the mind. Not to mention, you’re drunk. I chuckled, out of nervousness and to try to laugh everything away. The story wasn’t over. I had to finish reading it. Everything I had read to that point I already knew. My father told me when I was about to graduate high school. Even though he told me that it was just a story he’d heard from his father, it made sense to me. All my life I had been fighting depression. My father had been prone to bouts of intense anger that I had just chocked-up to growing up with an alcoholic father. But when I heard the story, everything made sense. I knew there had to be a reason I was so unhappy when everything was going well. My marriage had fallen apart recently, my wife so distraught at her inability to make me happy. But it wasn’t her fault. It was my fault… There had to be a way to break this curse… There had to be a way to break it.
Finally I sat on the couch, full of resolve and calming back down. Nothing was going to get me. I was safe. At least that’s what I repeated like a mantra to feel better.
After the incident on the ranch with the woman, Ismael’s grandmother confronted him in his room. “That woman was a bruja,” she told him.
“I don’t believe in witches,” Ismael said. He wouldn’t hear more, and he sent the old woman away.
Later that night, Ismael was woken up by one of the hands that was working the ranch that night.
“Jefe! Jefe! There’s something scaring the animals!” The man was visibly shaken, and he gripped at Ismael’s arm like his life depended on it. Ismael shoved the man and got out of bed, grabbing a rifle from a cabinet on the way out.
The animals were making so much noise that the rest of the family had woken as well. Ismael passed his wife, and huddled with his grandmother in the hall. The old woman tried to say something to him, but he was too angry to bother to listen. After getting to the place where the cattle were penned, the noise had stopped. It had stopped because the cattle were all slaughtered. To see a field of dead things, an expanse of seemingly endless bodies torn and broken… It’s something you can’t fully fear until you see it. Ismael readied his gun as the ranch hand ran away. Wading through the bodies he finally saw it. The thing rose on two legs, slowly like it was being birthed from the carnage. Its body was covered in blood and torn meat. It had no hair, but looked like a man-sized dog. It turned to face Ismael, its eyes looking black in the moonlight. When he made eye-contact with it, its sharp, dripping teeth seemed to form a smile. And it ran before he could get a shot off.
After that, the family, with no cattle, ran out of money. The land was sold and the family went their separate ways. Ismael disappeared, vowing to hunt the beast down.
I almost cried… There was no way to break the curse. The story just ended there. But I couldn’t live with all of this pain on my shoulders. There had to be a way. My head snapped around as I heard the sound again. Pop, pop, pop. Once again, I heard the sound of something sliding against the carpet. Quietly, at first, but slowly growing in volume, I heard a growl. It started as almost nothing but a breath, but the bass became almost deafening and it resounded through every fiber of my body.
There it was, in front of me. The beast from my father’s story.
Creaks and groans had been coming from the house since the night started. Deciding to finally read the thing, I dug my father's journal out of the envelope with the letter he left close to ten. Like I said, I was very prone to being afraid and the seriousness of it started to scare me. As a child, every dream I had was a nightmare. Older now, I no longer dreamed but I never forgot the feeling of that fear. When I made my way to the living room with the journal, the sounds got worse. In the silence of the house I felt like something was there with me, but the first thing my mind jumped to was ghosts. I was on edge. I wanted to put on music, put on a podcast or movie to make it feel lighter in the room, like there was positive energy there that would keep evil away.
When I made my first drink of the night, the sliding door in the kitchen creaked. Something is trying to get in, I thought, but I fought the fear back down. Houses made noises, and I knew that. But the door creaked again. Something had to be leaning against the glass. With the blinds drawn over it, I couldn't see the backyard, but I didn't want to. My eyes glanced over a crack in the blinds, but I wouldn't look. I shut my eyes tight, making colors dance behind my eyelids. If you look, it will be there. Just don't look and you won't see anything. Still frozen, I knew the only way to break out of that crippling fear was to look. Every time something like this happened, every time I was presented with a sliver of space peeking into a room, I locked up. The only way I had found to deal with it was to look, and then quickly remove the small opening by closing whatever door or curtain caused it. So I opened my eyes and looked.
There was nothing there. Just the dark backyard. But I could still hear that god-awful creaking. So I moved forward to straighten the blinds. When I did, I glanced over at the space again. There was something there. It was too dark to see it from where I had been standing before, but I was almost right in front of it. At about chest-level with me, there was a dull colored eye looking in. And it was moving with a chillingly slow precision. It was watching my hands move, and trailed up my arms. I could feel the gaze like insects on my skin. Finally, it crawled up to my eyes and we looked at each other. Only it didn't look at me, it looked into me. For what seemed like an eternity we stayed that way, staring each other down. There was no way I could move, my body wasn't my own anymore. A small sound pierced my ears in the silence. The sound of something sharp against glass. Suddenly the eye disappeared. Starting low, almost like a hum, I heard it out there. Slowly the hum grew and grew until it sounded like a tornado of gristle. The growl was so sickening I almost threw up. Cold, numbing fear wouldn't even let my body do that.
It shattered the glass like a movie prop. Adrenaline finally hit and I turned to run. The thing moved so fast and cut me off before my second step. And without hesitation, it jumped on me and pinned me on my back. Just like the story had said, it looked like a dog. Only it had no real fur, except for on its head. That hair was long and thin, like it was diseased. Where the front two paws would be, it had three long toes like bony fingers and hair on the knuckles like a man. It didn't try to kill me immediately. Instead it roared in my face. Its breath was like something rotten. I didn't want to die here. This was not the way I wanted to die. Quickly I looked for a place to strike back. Its chest and stomach looked like a man's, lean but covered in patches of dark skin. I tried to throw a punch, even though I had never thrown one in my life. But with a claw, it grabbed my wrist and pinned me back. It bared its teeth, strings of saliva hitting me in the face as he heaved breath. I did the only thing I could do. I bit its leg. Fear must have made me bite much harder because the thing whined.
While it was off-guard, I shoved it and slid away. Actually fighting back broke me out of my paralysis. I was afraid but I could move and think now. I did not want to die. In spite of how much pain I had lived with, I didn't want to die. I thought about my family as I ran to get a knife from the drawer. When I turned to face it, it was licking its wound and eyeing me with anger. I thought about my wife. Even though we were separated, I still loved her. If there was a chance, just some small chance that I could see her again, get help and make us work, I would fight for that. The thing started its progressive growl and I lunged with everything I had. But the wild arc I made with the knife missed. I fell flat on my stomach. As fast as I could, I turned onto my back again. It had moved forward to and was standing over my legs but facing away. With one lucky move, I managed to cut into its back legs and it collapsed. It whined even louder than before and sounded just like a scared dog. I stood and backed away. I must have hit something vital because it dragged itself with its front two claws. It yelped and tried but it couldn't stand.
I ran to the garage and searched for rope. But there was no reason in the world for me to have it. So I grabbed the only thing I had that would serve to bind the thing. With two sets of jumper cables I secured the beast's back legs. It snapped at me but I struck it on the nose. The thing didn't want to give up and managed to bite down on my arm while I tried to tie its front two legs. Its teeth were long and the bite didn't just hurt, it felt like my arm was on fire. I lashed out with the knife and was lucky enough to hit it. Quickly I tied its legs and had enough length left to tie its snout down as well. It lay there pawing at the carpet. I made another drink to calm myself. I had to call someone to get rid of the thing. But I remembered the journal. I always felt like my father had left something out. And maybe this was part of it. Maybe the two were unrelated, but I wouldn't know until I read the thing. I knew I should have called someone. I knew sitting down to read in this situation was not only idiotic but insane. And still I did it anyway.
Finished with the reading, I finally knew what this thing was. This thing was the answer to my prayers. I could break the curse. I finished my drink. I looked down at the mess I had left on the table. A few knives I had gathered and a bloodied towel I used to clean my wounds after the fight. I grabbed a knife and stood over the beast. It stopped growling and started to cower, as it should have. It shrank back and looked pathetic as it lay there, caught. This nightmarish monster was just some weak little animal. I would show it a real nightmare. Behind me I heard my phone ring. I wouldn’t answer it. It was late anyhow. And besides… I had too much to do.
Written by Jurodinhero