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I used to live on a patch of farmlands. I’m only writing this now as I have experienced something last week that has reminded me of what I’ve come across and denied, and one that nearly cost a life or two. The backstory is largely irrelevant as the incident was sudden. This starts when I first had the experience to see it unfold in my childhood.

Where I lived, there was a large rural patch of lands, and I was an incredibly outdoors type person. I resided in a small cottage that rested on fresh grass the animals would feed on. My dad owned a flock of healthy sheep, who provided us with good quality milk, mutton, and wool. The typical day was me going out in the creek to collect and release the minnows that darted in the clear water. I was fascinated by everything, and I’d rush to the wild flowers and observe as the bumblebees buzzed around them, with their pollen baskets full to the brim on a bright sunny day. Occasionally I would see the swallowtail as it fluttered across the weeds which grew, and I was also keen on watching the rabbits and hares leaping across the pastures. My passion for the outdoors and nature was something that caused me to form some extremely pleasant memories, where I’d exhaust myself outside in the day, and return with the family to hydrate myself with fresh, pastured milk from our big ewe. When I was about 5 years old, an unusual occurrence began to unfold. Every now and then, we’d find a sheep that’d been attacked and mangled. We’d assume it was a canid or perhaps a bear, but something about the way these particular sheep were killed seemed...odd. Throughout my stay in the old area, we’d come across 18 sheep that died in the exact same way. They’d been eaten from the inside, and for each one, the back of its head was stabbed, as if whatever had killed them particularly targeted this location every time it attacked a sheep in the flock. These weren’t old deaths, very recent in fact. We’d still see the blowflies swarming around the recently exposed flesh, their bright metallic colours glistening in flight.

A month after these occurrences came a day I’d never forget, I remember this night as clearly as the date it happened. My parents, uncles and aunts gathered to discuss what’s been going on with the lambs. It started off as some disease or a loose bit of machinery that these unfortunate creatures caught themselves in, but the discussions became dark, including topics about wild beasts, or a dominant ram killing the younger lambs. My dad then dismissed me and my siblings, ordering us to go to bed. Thus, I never knew what they discussed fully, but that wasn’t important to the events that unfolded. Somewhere in the middle of the night, I’d woken up to use the restroom and I’d come back to lie on my bed.

We had a window in our little cottage which I’d always peek out of before sleeping, and today was no different. I watched a young lamb walk into the scene, it scratched the ground under it to create a comfortable place to rest. There were no other sheep, and it was the only animal at this location. I watched, with a warm smile on my face as the lamb rested on the depression in the dirt. It was a pleasant sight for me, and the half-moon was bright enough for me to see. After what was about a couple of minutes, I saw a shadow loom behind the lamb. I was overwhelmed with confusion. Dad and mum were asleep, and my uncles and aunts had returned to their homes! I felt the thumps in my heart begin to speed up. It moved forwards, revealing its hands. I may have been a child back then, but I knew this wasn’t a human. I couldn’t really describe it back then, it was long, spindly, and the arms were equipped with...talons? Within seconds, my confusion had formed itself into fear. The thing stepped into frame, and when I saw its face, I covered my mouth as I was about to scream. It looked human, but twice as large. It was bald, stooping, and had a large, frowning mouth with its teeth hidden within. I watched it approach the sheep, and it brandished the “talons” on its arms. Without making a sound, it plunged them into the back of the sheep’s head. It’s neck went limp and outstretched its legs, and I watched as the sheep’s nerves kept firing. After a few seconds the sheep had become completely motionless. The hunched creature sliced an incision in the sheep’s stomach, and began to feed. I trembled in my bed, I could not describe the horror I experienced as I watched this monstrosity commit this carnage, in pure silence as not a single noise was made. It had finished feeding, and it raised its head, turning away to leave. I suddenly, without any warning, sneezed. The beast abruptly stopped, and turned to look towards me. I felt my heart literally stop. The creature’s eyes glowed as it stared at me for a few seconds. It walked towards me, and as I opened my mouth to let out a scream, lunged forwards and bit the neck of the sheep, carrying the cadaver, and then walking away only to disappear.

The encounter wasn’t very detailed as I’d been a kid, but it haunted me. I hadn’t been able to sleep for a full minute. The next day I narrated the whole thing to dad, however he dismissed it as a dream. He’d never believe me, and had what happened last week not taken place, I would have believed him fully. The killing of sheep stopped there, and we’d never see a sheep go missing when we lived there anymore. Six years later, we moved to an urban town, and the encounter with the thing had been buried in my memories, something I denied, and eventually forgot. Upon moving, I’d met one of the neighbour’s sons with whom I’d become great friends with. His name was Henry. We were both boys, and he was a year younger than me. He was somewhat frail, with light brown hair, and grey eyes with a hint of blue. He was slightly shorter than me and I was a year older than him. We shared very similar hobbies which really helped in us becoming the friends we are. When I was sixteen, thought it would be nice for us to visit the old cottage for a week. The location was somewhat far, but the road was isolated and it wasn’t too rocky, I figured out we’d be there by bike. We packed our supplies which included a fishing rod, a lighter, a few blankets, squeezable shampoo bottles we’d fill with water and use to wash up after doing our business, a few water tanks, a pot, to boil the creek water so we don’t ingest any dangerous pathogens, a bar of soap, and a shovel. I also took my pocket field guide that I made myself back when we lived there. I divided the supplies between me and Henry, and packed them in cylindrical bags, whose straps wrapped around our chests. Before leaving, I went to my dad’s basement and fetched an old, slightly rusted pistol and a tin which contained its bullets. Henry looked at my hands as they brandished the weapon.

“What’s this for?” he inquired sceptically. I, who lived in these lands for years, answered almost instinctively on the spot.

“Lest we find a hare or two to eat” I replied. The look on Henry’s face seemed to relax, and within about an hour we departed. I waved goodbye to my father and thanked him as he gave us the supplies. He also provided us with two sheepskin jackets, warning us that it’s cold back there.

It was a long and tiring journey, but it was safe. Henry and I rested our bikes on the walls of the cottage, which has fared well through all these years. We rested our exhausted legs, and soon made our way into the house. We chose to stay in my bedroom, as it had two beds and plenty of space. We unpacked and discussed about our plans for the week. The day was relatively bland in relation to the story, and so were the days leading up to the event. For the sake of the story, I will only talk about the days it happened. In the afternoon, I’d requested Henry fetch some water from the creek, and if he needed anything, he’d call for me. He was back in about a minute, clutching the full water tank in one hand, and in his other hand was something.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“I don’t know!” He exclaimed, he ran to me and I held my hand out for him. He loosened his grip, and I observed the thing. It was a glossy black creature, which looked like a centipede whose front legs were long. It was about twice the size of my middle finger. It had powerful jaws and a flattened head. As I watched the creature writhe, I was overwhelmed with a sense of...nostalgia. I looked up at Henry, who was staring at me expectantly.

“That’s a hellgramite!” I told him. “It turns into a dobsonfly, and it looks like no other bug you’ve seen!” I immediately reach for my field guide and flipped to page 59, and there it was. A crude illustration but recognisable nevertheless. Henry stared at the illustration of the full-grown animal. I could describe it as having the large wings of a dragonfly, ash grey with a brown shade. A strong robust body with a dragonfly’s abdomen and the thorax and head of a carabid beetle. Its mandibles we’re long, like scimitars that clashed together. The drawing didn’t do it justice.

“It’s an indicator of good water quality. They don’t tolerate pollution,” I continued. Henry then returned the insect back to the creek and the day went on normally, until night fell. Deep into my slumber, I felt something crawling on my back. I dismissed it as some sort of weird dream-like event. Eventually it felt unbearable. I jolted out of my bed and looked at what was causing this itching sensation. It was Henry, his hand tapping at my back. Recently he’d been increasing physical with me, and it felt off. I never asked him what was going on when he did, but now I was immediately asking

“What are you doing?” I asked, irritated. I was tired and beyond confused. He hesitated, looking at me before he began to speak

“There’s something that doesn’t make sense here,” he replied with equal confusion, ushering at the window. I got out of bed and looked. It had begun to snow. We were in the middle of spring! What was going on? Henry stood next to me, in utter confusion. My irritation formed itself into a sense of interest.

“Perhaps it’s a weather anomaly,” I said with uncertainty. “They were common here. Sometimes it’d pour buckets in summer and sometimes we’d have scorching days in January”.  That seemed to reassure him and soon enough, he was fast asleep.

The next day went on as usual, until the sun set. We went to sleep, or more accurately I did. I woke up from thirst, but before I got up, I saw Henry lying next to me. I was enraged.

“What’s the meaning of this!?” I yelled. Without any hesitation, Henry got up from my bed.

“I’m genuinely frightened,” he began, with an audible tremble in his voice. “I know you have different creatures in the rural lands, but I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen it.”

“What do you mean, it?!” I asked. My rage began to subside, and again I was confused.

“The thing.” He replied.

“What thing, could you describe it to me?” I demanded. He immediately listed the features of what he saw out that window, and as he did my heart sank. He talked about a grey, human like creature. He said it stopped over, with a hunched back. It was bald, and twice the size of a human. What got me was how he described its hands as having...talons. I came to my realisation, and what happened a decade prior.

“What’s wrong?” He stammered, looking into my visible expression of fear. I grabbed my father’s pistol, loaded it, and gestured him to come with me. We ran into the now snowy landscape. We wandered into the night, with my pistol locked in my right pocket and a few provisions in the other. I made sure Henry was always alongside me. I needed to find the answer to this, I needed to know. What I saw at the age of five, the thing that haunted me for a year at most, has returned to my mind. All I could think of was the thing Henry has described to me. What stood out the most were its talons and hunched back. He’d also told me about its long neck, like a swan with the head of a withered man. My mid was so focused on the thing I had forgotten I was able to defend myself against it. We had wandered about a kilometre from our cottage, and then without warning, I fell to the ground.

I helped myself to my feet and glanced behind my back. I only saw it for a split second, but that image was something I could never find enough words to describe. It was monstrous in proportions. Its long arms possessed more muscle power than any human being’s entire body. Its legs were bent like that of a human, but its feet resembled hooves. Its hands were plunged into the snowy ground, and I’d not seen the talons. It had a long neck, like a swan’s, just the way Henry has described it to me. Its head was bald, with a huge frown, a gaping black mouth which hid the teeth of the beast. Its eyes were like flashlights, radiating a bright, white reflective sheen. Henry was calling for me. Using my footprints as a guide, I sprinted in their direction. I yelled for Henry to follow me. I sprinted through the snow, and soon enough, I began to hear his shoes crunching against it as well. I felt relieved, knowing he was fine. However, the thing had begun its pursuit of us. I could not see how it ran, only the softness of its sprinting. That thing had never made a sound in its life. Not when it killed a sheep before my very eyes, not when Henry saw it, and not when it chased us through the snow. That’s what I found the most horrible, the fact that it does not go all out on you, but does what it can to ensure you go out without emitting a whisper. I felt the cold air rushing into my lungs, and its temperatures causing them to feel as if they’d been encased in a packet of ice. I ignored the pain. My body began to ache, and my legs weaken, but we continued to sprint, and then I pointed towards a standing wooden wall. I ran and took refuge behind it. Henry then came next to me, lacing his fingers between mine. I didn’t care at this point, but then it hit me.

“The pistol!” whispered Henry, his voice tired from the cold.

The pistol, I thought to myself. How could I forget? I immediately took it from my pocket, and unlocked it, ready to fire at the thing. With Henry’s hands clasped in my right and the pistol ready in the left, I vigilantly peeled behind the wooden wall.

Before I even reacted, the wooden wall shattered. The thing kicked at me with its leg, slamming my back against the sharp splinters. I collapsed to the ground, and it swung its neck towards Henry and its jaws shot out like a shark’s does when it reaches out to bite out of the corpse of a deceased whale. It threw him without effort, and I saw his body get tossed at least 10 metres away. It then slowly walked towards Henry as he struggled to lift himself. I could barely move, and watched as the creature looked at me, as if to say nobody is going to save you. It turned its head to Henry and then everything went black. I believe I’d gone unconscious for a few seconds, but I was suddenly woken up as I heard Henry’s screams. It was heartbreaking, I have never heard such a sound of fright and despair come from anybody. I tossed my hand against the snow, desperately prodding, until I felt a short metal rod. I threw myself forwards and grabbed the tossed pistol. The thing was to preoccupied with Henry to even notice I was getting up on my feet. I looked and raised the firearm, clenched in both hands. It had begun to use its talons to claw at the cloth that covered Henry’s calf and was getting ready to tear into the muscles in his legs. I felt my own legs. I could not describe the agony I was enduring. I felt as though there were wasps in my knees, stinging my vulnerable joints. I felt as though my tendons were being poked with pins that have been held over a fire. My legs buckled as I struggled to hold the iron ring of the gun at the body of the beast. I tried to aim it away from Henry and closed my eyes, pulling the trigger as much as I could. I heard several gunshots, and then my body fell to the ground, giving up in exhaustion. I opened my eyes, and the thing was looking at me. It lumbered away from Henry, who’s screams faded as he looked at the thing. I watched it, and red pools began to form at certain parts of its body, before it turned to streaks, which ran down its greyed out, wrinkled skin. I had shot the thing at least 5 times. It let out an exhale, before it turned from us and limped away. That was the only sound I ever heard come from it. There was a silence for a few minutes, and then Henry got up, however I myself was still lying down on my back, supported by my arms. I saw a few scratches on his shin, and the snow had seemed to absorb the impact of the throw. He trudged in my direction, and once he was close enough, hurled himself at me. Henry held me in a tight embrace, and with a voice, filled with horror, exhaustion, and pain uttered these two words.

“Thank you.”

Henry laid his head on my chest, and broke down. I felt my eyes sting along with immense pity, but also relief. I raised my back, and threw my arms around him. I felt my shirt soak, hearing nothing but Henry’s sobs. It went on for a few minutes.

“Don’t worry, it’ll be alright...” I said, feeling a lump in my throat. Henry began to calm a bit, and soon enough, I began to see the rays of sunlight peek over the horizon. I managed to get up, holding my hand out for Henry. I helped him on his feet.

“It’s gone. We know our way back, and we’ll be home early.” I reassured him. He wiped his tears with the sleeve of his shirt, and a subtle smile crept on his face. Our journey back home was again long, but we never encountered anything like it again. I narrated the story to my relatives, of whom nobody believed me with the exception of my dad. As for me and Henry, it strengthened our friendship and we became inseparable, considering all this happened just a week ago. I don’t know what’s going to happen with this in the future, but one thing I’m grateful for is that it did have some good result on me. I, however, would never forget the night. I stayed up two separate nights just by thinking about this encounter.