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Carnivore

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Ghost stories? Well, there aren't any of those around here, but we do have story that's sort of along those lines. No ghosts or anything, but it could be considered a scary story. Around here it spawned a kind of urban legend. People take it seriously here too.

So years back, I'm talking about '98 or '99 maybe, a guy by the name of Jack Kruller moved here from New York city. Or was it Boston? Ah, point is Jack came from a city- Boston! It was Boston. Anyway, Jack wasn't exactly new to this little town. He grew up on a farm that's a good ways up the road. He helped do chores and do little jobs as a kid. Good worker right up until he left. He really did know a lot about farming and wasn't just some big-shot business type who thought he could retire out west on a farm.

Jack had a good life in Boston, but he came back on less than happy terms. His dad had passed and left Jack the farm. It was all very rough on Jack on account of it wasn't just his father died of a heart attack. His dad was healthy for his age and everyone expected him to live another twenty or so years. It was hard on Jack because his dad went missing before he was found dead.

It was about two years that he was gone before his body was found. All bones, torn clothes, half buried by time and erosion. I say it was tough for Jack, but it was tough for all of us. Being such a small place and all; everyone knows everyone here. I actually knew John Kruller personally. Me and him grew up together, went to the same school and all.

Jack arranged the funeral, but he also started taking care of the farm from day one. Like I said, he was a good worker. The kid knew how to put work ahead of mourning. He kept only a few of the hired hands that his dad had. Jack could do most the work himself being a strong man of thirty-something. His dad had so many hired hands because he was getting up in age; I think he was fifty-five when he passed. Fifty-six? Well his dad was too old to work is what I'm getting at and so he had more hired hands than Jack needed on that farm. It's still there, too. The farm I mean. The crops are all dried up and dead now, of course, but it's there. A big grey house, plenty big for a family of six, and out back is a few acres of brown, dead barley crops. It was the main supply for the brewery here in town back in the day.

Back to Jack. The Kruller boy didn't have a wife or any kids. It was just him, alone, in that big farm house. As you'd expect, we saw a lot of Jack here in town. He'd make a trip down here twice a week: once on Sunday to hang out at the bar and have a few drinks and again on Thursday to drop off the barley and buy some groceries for the week. He'd buy the typical stuff, fresh vegetables and fruits and a couple of steaks. This is back when I still worked at the butcher shop here in town, so I saw him every week.

One fine Sunday at the bar in early spring, Jack was talking to me and some of the other guys about a pest problem he was having. He said he liked to sleep with the windows open at night since it was getting warmer out. He'd leave the window open to let the warm night air in then be woken up around one or two in the morning by a bird flapping around and screeching in his room on the second floor. I suggested he buy a dog to keep the bird out and give him some much needed company after working hours when all the hands went home.

The barking and scaring would make the birds know they aren't welcome and Jack certainly had plenty of room for a dog. He took my advice and got a young Rottweiler from the pound. Nice looking dog with a black and brown coat. Jack said it kept the birds out of his place. He would keep the dog in his room at night, right next to his bed, and it would growl at anything in the window.

Like I said, this is when I worked at a butcher shop. I retired a few years ago, but someone else took over for me so it's still the best place to get meats around here. Jack came down on Thursdays and would buy some sausages or cold cuts or other various meats. And, every week, he'd get a steak. Can't blame the guy, steaks are my favorite food too.

This one day he asked me, and this is around two weeks or so after he got the dog, he asked if he could feed the pooch a bit of raw steak every now and again. I told him to cook it at least rare so there was nothing that could get the dog sick, but other than that it would be fine. I'm no vet, but I know dogs do love meat and it would work for a good reward every now and again.

I assume the dog got some steak every time it did something good. Like if it scared off a bird that was persistent. According to Jack there were a few of those, as if there was something outside that scared them more than a growling Rottweiler. So I figured that the dog got some meat one, maybe twice, a week. No, the dog didn't go crazy from tasting meat like a lion does if that's where you think this story is going. Jack said the dog was a big push over. Wouldn't even attack one of the birds, just scare them away. Besides, dogs are more loyal than hungry. Now, what did happen was, about mid May, Jack came down to my shop on a Wednesday. This was odd because people here stick to a pretty regular routine that only changes for very good or very bad reasons. Jack bought a pound of steak, again odd because he never bought more than a half pound. Then he told me his dog had ran away in the night.

Jack told me about how he woke up to his dog not only growling, but barking like a maniac. And then he heard scratching on the floor and it sounded like the dog jumped. Jack got out of bed to see what had happened and it looked like the dog chased a bird out the window. He saw it running for the tree line, barking, but he couldn't make out anything else in the darkness of the night. Jack loved that dog to death, spoiled it too, so it was no surprise to me that he was planning on luring it back with some food.

Jack came back the next week, on Thursday, and went about his business as usual. He was being hopeful and optimistic; Jack found the meat gone everyday that he had put some out so far. Though his dog hadn't come back, he said things like the dog must've just chased a bird back into the woods and lost it's way again. I didn't buy it though. I thought Jack was being too optimistic. Maybe I should have told him that his dog wasn't coming back, but I had bigger issues.

I was starting to get less and less meat to sell every week. The farmer I bought most of my selection from was finding a lot of his livestock dead. Cows, pigs, horses, even the chickens were found with large bite wounds or missing portions of their bodies. He even told me one cow lost its entire lower-body! He told me, oh this farmer is named Billy and he still lived about a mile-and-a-half away from the Kruller farm. He doesn't sell animals anymore though; switched to crops after what happened.

So Billy told me he got a look at what was killing off all his animals. He said he took a shot at it one night when it was trying to claw it's way into his barn. I will never forget the description he gave me if I live to be a hundred. It was at least six-feet-tall and had dull grey, leathery skin. Covered in spikes all down its back and at its joints like the bones grew out to long and jutted out at the knees, elbows, shoulders, and pretty much every other joint. The creepiest part was how Billy described its eyes and mouth. The thing's eyes were two small, tar-black circles. They had no shine or reflection in them, as though all light was pulled into them. The eyes sat a few inches above its mouth; a large slit that followed the jaw line up far higher than it should and was filed with small, needle like teeth.

Billy's story spread quickly in this town. There were a lot of mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, Billy was known for drinking late into the night and had claimed more insane things on his drunken stupors. Us older folks thought he was just hammered and saw something like a wolf or a fox out there. The younger people though, they believed the story. Billy was an honest guy, and he had given such details it seemed the story couldn't be a dream. In the end, it was silently decided that no one should feed into Billy's tale. If only we had done something about it, went and checked it out for ourselves. Humored him. Maybe if we did that everything would have ended okay.

It was a few more weeks that I saw Jack walking out of a pawn shop. This was fairly early, before I started my shift, so I went over to say hello. He wasn't looking so good. In fact, Jack was fuming. All red in the face, his cheeks wet with tears, and his lower lip looked like it was chewed on for the better part of an hour. I asked him what was the matter and, choking back a sob that caught in his throat, Jack responded.

"It's my dog," he said, "I found his...what's left of him."

That almost knocked me off my feet. I waited for him to calm down and had him explain what happened. He had, apparently, been putting up a fence because animals were turning up dead on his land. Small things like rabbits or field mice. When he'd gotten to the back left corner of his property he found the remains of his animal. There were only bones left, according to Jack, and a few bits of meat here and there. The only reason he knew it was his dog was the snapped collar on the ground only a few inches away from the body. It looked like the dog had fought something much larger. Jack had figured there was some kind of wild animal that Billy had seen and it is what got to the dog. I wasn't so convinced, but I, stupidly, kept my mouth shut. Then I asked what Jack bought in the pawn shop.

He had purchased a shotgun with slugs, the solid metal shotgun rounds.

He refused to tell me why, but I had a pretty good idea. He was planning on killing whatever it was that got his dog. I couldn't blame him seeing as how the dog had become his best friend. The only thing to keep him company after a long day of work. No, I didn't blame him, but I thought it was the stupidest idea he could ever have. Now, this might be a small town, but there is still a waiting period after buying a gun. There are background checks and it takes about three weeks in all. So it would be a while before Jack got the gun and I didn't expect him back until Sunday.

To my surprise, Jack returned the next day. He got everyone who would listen, which was most of us, and began to recount an encounter he had the night before. He saw Billy's monster and described it in very dream-like details. He said that he had fallen asleep on his front porch, as a lot of us did on warm nights, and woke up to the sound of heavy breathing. Opening his eyes, right there before him stood a monster with dry, pale grey skin. Spikes jutting out at it's joints and all down it's back. Jack said the thing tried to grab him too and he did have some scratches on his arm, but it looked like a fall on rocks could have caused it too.

The part that got to us was how the details were so descriptive. Yes, it was dream-like in how there were very few exact details, but the details that did exist were so powerful and descriptive. How the monster's breath smelled of rotten flesh and citrus, the way it moved in a sluggish and awkward way as thought it couldn't move without hurting itself. And then the same details of the mouth and eyes; two very small black holes just above a wide mouth lined with spit and teeth.

In the end, it was agreed that Jack had lost his mind from the loss of his pet. Only the few kids who listened actually believed Jack saw a monster that night. He was denied his firearm and the letter went out on Saturday. No one saw Jack on Sunday. At the bar, we assumed he stayed home where there's no smiling faces and the drinks keep coming. If only someone had went to check on Jack. Maybe this wouldn't have happened.

Thursday came. No Jack. That was a bad sign. After all, if he didn't buy food it meant he wasn't eating. People were worried, but none of us said anything. We were stupid, and hoped he was just going to suddenly get better and stop being crazy. It took a week for anyone to go down and check up on him. One of his close friends, Jim, went down to check up on Jack.

He drove his truck down that cracked road with faded yellow paint until he got to the farm house. The grey paint looked new then, the barley in the back still golden and shining in the mid-noon sun. The gate out fence was still unfinished, so he climbed over it easily. He then walked up to the blue door and thumped the knocker against the cool wood three times. No response. He tried again, faster and in more of a panic.

Three quick thumps on the thick wood. When he didn't answer, Jim was concerned and planned on going to town to get the authorities. But, as he took one last look at the house when he noticed the bedroom window open. Jim called a few times, relieved that Jack was most likely sleeping off his troubles. He didn't get a response after shouting, so he pulled the ladder out of his truck and leaned it against the house.

The first thing Jim said that hit him was the smell. A terrible stench. Something akin to roadkill marinated in vomit for a week. Hard to stand something so terrible. He said he was about the climb back down and throw up all over the ground when he saw Jack. He was laying in his bed, just as Jim had figured, but he wasn't asleep.

He was dead and worse he was mutilated. One arm was chewed down to the bone, the skin on his chest ripped off and his rib cage crushed. Both of his legs were missing a serious portion of muscle. His skull was exposed, one eye missing and his scalp gone. His abdomen ahd been ripped into as well, the smell coming from bits of meat and organs soaking in Jack's bile. Jim vomited all over the floor.

I suppose it goes without saying that no one saw Jack again. The funeral was closed casket and it was a very solemn day. No one wanted to bring up Billy's monster, but everyone must have been thinking it. Then a young girl, must have been around eight, loudly asked her mother if the monster ate up mister Kruller.

There was a collective shudder between all in attendance and the mother began trying to explain to the daughter why she couldn't say such things. Then a boy, only a few years older, piped up and shouted that the Carnivore is what killed Jack. Carnivore was the name that Billy's monster was given and it stuck. It was impossible for anyone to forget about the Carnivore after that. Like I said, spawned and urban legend.

Now you can take this story as true like all of us do, or you can just take it as a good horror tale. No skin off my back either way. However, show some respect to the locals around here. They take it very seriously. It's like a boogie man to us. It's the reason kids don't go out alone after dark. If anything is found dead and eaten, no matter how big it is, it's blamed on the Carnivore. And no one sleeps with the windows open anymore. Oh, look at the time. I have to get out of here. Yeah, enjoy the rest of your night. One last thing; I don't suggest driving up to that old grey farm house a good ways up the road. It's still there, with it's dead crops and the unfinished gate, but that area has a lot of animals turn up dead at this hour of the night.

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