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I really hated working for Joe. He was the standard bitter old man with a tongue of hate and disgust for anyone not as old and miserable as him. I had no choice though, I was young and needed the money—so I had no choice but to be his wage slave. Day in and day out I would work and work on his farm, shoveling animal excretion and feeding his bizarre critters. I say bizarre because something seemed off about them, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but they seemed almost entranced. Not like the standard loud and obnoxious farm animals, but I didn’t care. As long as they were happy, Joe was happy—and if he was happy, I got paid.

It was getting colder out, and I hated winter. Joe’s farm was in the middle of nowhere, at least a ten-minute drive from my house. I lived in the downtown area, nothing at all close to the country. Lately I’ve had to get up at four in the morning and haul it through the slick and icy country roads to get to the old man’s place. My dad knew Joe I guess. As a child he had seen him in town a lot, he was kind of a staple to the community. When Dad told me I would be working for him I was glad to get a job—yet quite disappointed with whom I’d be working for. I stuck with it though, and have been working for him for five months now. He pays well, so you won’t see me quitting anytime soon. Although lately things have been getting weird.

For starters, I didn’t have to always get up at four. When I first started working for him—and the following three months after—I could sleep till noon then head over. Yet about a month and a half ago he called my cell early one morning. He said he wanted me to come over and feed—as well as clean his animals. I asked why so early and why so sudden? He got very angry and said he’d fire me if I didn’t come, so I agreed of course and headed over. His farm was pretty big; there’s a lot of land and livestock. I got out of my car and headed to the barn, almost tripping over the frozen mud and its unevenness. The frigid air did some work to quell the animal stench—but it didn’t do the full job. My nose turned as I walked in to see the things awaiting my assistance in place of Joe.

They all faced me: the horses, the cattle, and the chickens—they all watched me silently. It was only then that I realized that I had never heard his animals make a ruckus. They were always silent. “You guys are strange.” I said, walking up to the horses. The horse turned away, almost yelping. I jumped back and turned to see the cattle and chickens all moving to the other side of their pens. What the hell was going on? “Feed em’, and wash em’ good, I want to see this barn spotless before sunrise,” Joe said, almost appearing out of nowhere form behind me.

I jumped, “R-right sir…” Joe eyed me for a second; then slowly looked off. He had the saddest eyes I had ever seen on any man, his face was lively with the scars and wrinkles of what looked like ten thousand days of work and misery. To be honest he looked dead, hollow, a walking phantom.

He turned and walked off, almost disappearing into the darkness of the early morning. I sighed, time to get to work I guess.

The sun was just visible as I finished shoveling out the pig’s pen behind the barn. The inner barn was finished: they were fed, cleaned, and inspected. The pigs were really freakin messy, but I finished them in time too. “Well done, go home.” Joe said, again appearing out of nowhere. I was confused, no twelve hour shift today? “U-uh you sure sir..?” I said. He looked off into the distance, he seemed fixed on something. The rustling trees were the only audible things all of a sudden; the silence between us seemed eternal. Finally he turned back and looked at me, “Yeah, go on.” Well, that was that. I got back in my car and began driving away. I don’t know what happened, maybe I was really tired and seeing things—but I swear in the rear view mirror I thought I saw Joe disappear into thin air. I laughed; surely I’m seeing things? Right?

Like I said, that was a month and a half ago. Since then there has been more strange stuff. The biggest one being the animals—they’re disappearing. I noticed it as I repeated my cleaning routines in the barn. First it was the chickens, one was missing from the pen. I couldn’t help but count them; I had to interact with them so much. I noticed quickly more and more were missing, even notifying Joe—he didn’t seem to care. “Hmm, well, I’ll have to look into it. Probably a weasel or something…” he would murmur. I began to wonder if he was behind it, but why would he be? I shrugged it off; there was nothing I could do about it. Then Penny, one of his horses disappeared. Now this made me uncomfortable, chickens are one thing but a whole horse?

Again, Joe didn’t seem to care. This was all last week, still fresh in my mind. What the hell was going on? “What’s happening guys? Where you all runnin' too?” I said to Gabby as I washed her—his eldest cow. She did what she and all the other animals do, stared at me blankly and silently. Not that I expected her to answer anyway. Today is very frigid; I swear the wind chill is at least ten degrees. I just want to go home but Joe is making me stay later then usual. He’s having me look after his animals while he goes out and does something in the wheat field. I asked him if he needed any help but he didn’t respond, he just walked off.

It’s almost nine o’ clock, I’m getting antsy. The animals are either staring quietly at me, or out at the field. I was getting more and more curious as to what Joe was doing out in the field. I got up and walked to the barn door, the outside air stung my face—pushing me back in the warm barn. Just then I saw a bright light out in the center of the field. “What?” I said, leaping up to my feet again. The animals became hysterical, making noises I had never heard before. This greatly unnerved me; they were always so quiet… this wasn’t right. “What’s wrong? Relax!” I said, waving my arms—trying to get a futile message across to the screaming animals.

Just then Joe appeared again, walking slowly out of the field. “Oh hey s-" I trailed off, there was someone behind him. As he got closer to the barn I began to feel a strange fear I had never felt before—almost a panic. The man, or thing behind him was at least five feet taller then he was. It TOWERED over him, I mean he was dwarfed, and Joe was not a small man. I began backing away, turning to see the animals all doing the same in their pens. As they reached the light of the barn I saw the thing’s face—its whole body. It was this tall, grey thing. It had enormous black eyes and an equally large mouth. I couldn’t see any teeth but I got the sensation it could eat me. “Wh-what…” I stuttered, trying desperately to figure out what was going on.

The thing was sickly skinny, it looked like it was anorexic or something. It leaned over Joe’s shoulder and looked at me square in the face. Suddenly I could speak—and knew exactly what I was going to say. “You, you’re what’s been taking them…right?” I couldn’t breathe, I was getting more and more fearful. It stared at me for a moment. Without warning it grabbed one of the chickens from out of the nearby pen. “Wait!” I said, leaping up. In a flash the chicken was gone, and falling down the thing’s throat. “Sorry kid, this is how things are around here now…” Joe said, staring down at the ground.

Blood was everywhere, all over the ground and me. “What is this? What?” I said, snapping out of my trance to see the horror before me. The grey thing had taken a bite out of Joe—a big bite. Half of Joe’s upper body was gone—the chewed flesh and muscle hung off the bite radius like the petals of a gory flower. His spinal column was sticking out of the red mass… the thing was eating everything here. I got up and tried to run but I couldn’t, my legs were frozen. The thing walked over to my side, I had begun shrieking now—this couldn’t be happening. It smiled a bloody smile and squinted its giant eyes at me. Why was this happening? What the hell was this thing? An alien? It grabbed my legs and lifted me off the ground—my head slamming into the dirt as I was raised. The animals were in mass hysterics by now, making group noises of terror I had never hear before—or even thought possible by them.

It stared into my eyes for the longest time, it wasn’t evil looking back at me—it was something I had no way of understanding completely. It smiled, and gently put me down. Walking over to the barn door it grabbed Joe’s remaining body and consumed it in one gulp. It seemed so unreal, like I was dreaming—and what it was doing was impossible. It turned to me, “He let you see me, that was an error. Your turn child.” It said without moving its mouth. Just then I knew exactly what was going on, it was handing the job over to me. Whatever It was having Joe do here—feeding it or using his things—it was saying now it was my turn to do the same, and not screw up. “In his will, he gave the farm to you—I made sure of that before tonight…” It said. I couldn’t believe it, by tomorrow, the day after that, and the day after that… I would be the new keeper of this farm. I would be the next in line to inherit this disease, this punishment. I would be the next to interact directly with whatever the hell that thing was. It gave me one last evil smile and walked off into the field. Eventually the light went out in the center of the field too.

To my astonishment the blood and gore was gone from Joe's body, it had taken care of that too. This was all going to go as planned. The animals maintained their usual silence, staring at me once more. I got up and stared out into the field. The job was mine, I was next in line—who knows how long Joe had done this. Who knows how many generations of his family had dealt with this thing. Now the burden was on my shoulders, now I was next.