My family had this tradition. Every year on Thanksgiving, we would go to visit Grandpa in the mountains. He’d lived in his old log cabin for as long as I could remember. I never met Grandma. She died before I was born.
One time, after Thanksgiving dinner, when everyone had eaten their fill of turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, Grandpa sat down in the living room and asked me if I wanted to hear a story. “Sure, Grandpa,” I said, “but this time, I don’t want to hear a boring story, like the one about your bike. Tell me something scary.”
He paused for a moment and scratched his chin. “Well… I do have one, but it might give you a real fright.”
I rolled my eyes. “Grandpa, I’m twelve years old. I won’t be up all night because of a spooky story.”
“All right then,” Grandpa began, “Before I met your Grandma and settled down here, I worked at the farm down the road harvesting soybeans. Met a man there by the name of Jim, whose job was to train the horses. We soon became good friends.
So this one time during the holiday, Jim asked me if I was down to go hunting. I’d never been hunting before, but it sounded like fun. So I went out and rented myself a Winchester and headed out into the sticks with Jim to look for deer. We never found any. We didn’t bring no map or compass, and soon we were pretty damn lost. That’s when it started getting dark. I asked Jim if he could read the stars, with him having been in the Boy Scouts and all, but said he done forgot his constellations. So we decided to build a fire and camp out till morning. That were a mistake. Although, now that I think of it, we didn’t have much of a choice.
It was barely the crack of dawn when I woke up to Jim shaking me. The fire was out. I must’ve cussed real loud, cause he hissed at me to shut up.
“You hear that?” Jim whispered.
“Hear what?” I asked. Then I listened for a moment and I could hear something. Sounded like a person moaning.
“Somebody might be in trouble,” said Jim. “Maybe we can help them. Let’s go.” He picked up his gun. Way to be the hero, Jim. With wariness about me, I hoisted my pack and followed Jim in the direction of the noise. After a few paces we found ourselves in front of a huge rock, one of them formations made by earthquakes. I could hear the moans coming from the other side. Jim and I peeked round the rock, and what I saw made me freeze in terror.
A sliver of morning sunlight fell on the most horrific beast I’d ever seen. At first glance, it looked kinda like a bear—except that bears don’t got teeth like razor blades or eyes that glow with ghostly fire—no, this creature looked like it done crawled straight outta hell. But the worst part was what was making the moaning noise.
It was a young woman, probably a hiker. Couldn’t have been older than twenty-one. She was sprawled out flat on the ground. The creature had ripped her belly open and was messily devouring her innards, splattering her face with blood and bits of gore. I realized the sadistic fuck was saving her most vital organs for last, forcing the poor girl to die a slow, agonizing death.
The creature hadn’t noticed us. It buried its face in the woman’s intestines, chewing and slurping ravenously. She moaned faintly. I knew she was good as dead, and I was also scared straight as shit. In a panic, I grabbed Jim by the arm.
“God dammit! We need to get out of here, man!”
Jim ignored me. He had this serious look on his face, with his jaw set in determination. I knew what he was gonna do and tried to stop him, but it was too late. In one swift motion, he raised the rifle and took aim.
There was a roar of pain as Jim’s bullet buried itself in the monster’s hide. It turned toward us, snarling, and I swear I felt those burning eyes stare into my soul. Jim didn’t try to reload, he turned and ran. So did I. You know how they say you can’t outrun a bear? ‘Tis indeed true. But really, if you’re with a friend, all you gotta do is outrun him. Unfortunately for Jim, I was the faster one. I didn’t look back, even with his screams ringing in my ears.
I ran until I reached a small stream. On the other side was one of those sheds that people use for storing firewood. It was unlocked, thank Jesus. I stepped inside, slamming the door shut behind me, and waited there, my heart beating out of my chest. It felt like an eternity and the inside of the shed was real cold, but when the monster finally came, I was ready.
I leveled my rental Winchester at the door as it splintered and finally gave way. I only had one shot, and if I missed, I would be off to meet my maker. So I aimed for the spot right between the varmint’s god-forsaken glowing white eyes.
Before I could pull the trigger, the monster lunged with lightning speed and pinned me to the back wall of the shed. My forearms hurt like the blazes as its claws dug into my flesh. I could feel the beast’s hot, rancid breath on my face, and its jaws were about to crush my skull. This was the end, I thought.
But then, outta nowhere, there was this loud, piercing whistle. Never have I met a fella who could whistle like that. The monster turned its head in the direction of the sound. Then it lifted its paws off me and bounded out of the shed, into the trees and out of sight.
I stood there, breathless. Aside from bleeding pretty bad, I was all right. I found a map in a drawer in the shed and used it to get back to the road. From there I made my way back to the farm, where I delivered the tragic news to Jim’s family. Everyone wanted to know what had happened. Course, when I told the story, none of ‘em believed me.”
I laughed. “That was a really good story. You must’ve spent some time on it.”
Grandpa didn’t answer. He just rolled up his sleeve. I gasped. Etched into the meat of his forearm were three long blue scars.