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The disappearances are all anyone can talk about lately. Since our little town has been founded, we’ve lived in peace and happiness, but something has fowled the air of tranquility we have established. Nothing like this has ever happened, and everyone is in a frantic state. Rumors scurry and crawl into peoples’ ears, infecting them with the thought of a monster creeping in the woods, taking its victims. Any sightings of this savage have yet to be known.
With the sun high above and shining, I walk down the dirt road, lone pebbles digging into my feet, taking in the many once familiar faces of neighbors and friends. The look of sadness and stress over-takes what used to be their smiling expressions. No waves or hellos are exchanged. The number one thing on their minds is the disappearances. So much for having hope. I continue to walk further, passing cabins large and small, until I reach the schoolhouse. Also known as the church, the schoolhouse stands taller than any of the homes surrounding it. On any regular school day, classmates from 6 to 17 gather outside and wait for Mrs. Jefferson, our schoolteacher, to ring the bell for the beginning of class. Today, everyone from town is entering the building. Something must have happened.
When I come closer, voices clash together, desperate to be heard. From wall to wall, front to back, and in the isles bodies take up every space except the front area where our teacher usually hovers while lecturing. When I step inside, Jenny Phillips, in her pale green dress and blonde pig tales, spots me within the crowd and pushes her way through, no doubt to tell me what is going on. Because I am the height of a full-grown horse, maybe taller, I doubt it was hard to see me. Jenny and I are the only ones who are seventeen. We grew up together and have been friends since the beginning. “What’s going on, Jen?” I ask. “Fredrick! You haven’t heard?” She asks in a shrill voice, “It was horrible. I saw it myself! With my own eyes, I saw that beast take her!”
“Calm down,” I say to her, “I don’t understand.”
Jenny takes in a deep breath to help her nerves settle down before talking again. “I was just walking in the woods with Cora this morning before the sun rose. We wanted to test it, you know? She didn’t even believe there was a monster taking the others, so I trusted her. The more we walked, the more I began to believe it. When we saw the sun start to come up, we started to go back home before our mother woke, but then we heard it. There was snapping sounds like someone was coming towards us and fast. That’s when we ran,” Jenny stops for a minute, “It ran after us!” Her words slip faster past her lips as she spoke. “Cora kept pushing me ahead of her, telling me to keep running. We were so close to the edge of the woods, but right as I crossed that edge, she screamed. I turned around to find her being carried off in the arms of that monster! It was huge! As tall as a tree and as hairy as any beast could be! I didn’t know what to do, Fred!” Jenny lays her head on me and weeps.
“You’re okay. Don’t worry. They’ll find Cora and the others. I’m sure.” At that moment, Mrs. Jefferson takes her spot in the front and tries, with no avail, to get everyone’s attention. “Can I get your attention, please? Your attention!” The noise doesn’t lessen. “Quiet!” a male voice booms over all. Sticking out from the crowd because of his height I inherited, my father steals all the attention. He looks to Mrs. Jefferson. “Thank you Mr. Cray. If you folks could please find a seat, we will begin.”
Apparently, the reason we are here is because men and women from all over town demanded to have a meeting to discuss the disappearances and the monster. The idea bloomed more since Jenny’s claim of seeing it with her own eyes.
There is no such thing as manners in this meeting, not even a single brain. One man bellows forth a retort over another man’s opinion in the matter. One old crow complains the monster is eating her chickens but doesn’t seem to think of the idea that her dog could be the culprit. The demeanors of every individual in this cramped room gives off a certain scent. They are all scared. Why wouldn’t they be? A monster roams the woods just outside of town, and it is picking people off one at a time. The first victim from just a week ago was Farmer Ed, an old man that keeps to himself. I tried getting a job from him once, but the old grump refused and sent me on my way with a few choice words. The second was a little boy that went by the name of Tod Daniels. I had a couple run-ins with the kid. That little thief tried to steal one of my father’s chickens, and I caught him trading my mother’s pin, a silver sparrow with sapphires for eyes, for some fish from a fisherman. How he got a hold of it, I’ll never know. Now it is Cora, Jenny’s older sister. Since I was very young, I’ve wanted to ask for her to be my wife. I have cared for her so much, but it was a childish fantasy.
Hours passed with more yelling, cursing, and proposing of going in search of the beast, all turned down with promises of sending people out to look for the missing victims. Once we are released, I notice the sun setting and darkness creeping in. Jenny insists on me walking her home to be safe, so I oblige. Many nights when walking her home, I could smell her mother’s fresh cooking, but tonight, I don’t smell anything but the fragrance of mourning. “Take care of yourself, Fredrick.” Jenny says as we step up to the door, “I can’t loose you either.”
“I’ll be fine. Good night.”
Despite the lack of cooking at Jenny’s, my mother has the table set with plates filled to the brim with food. She stayed home predicting that the meeting would be packed. My father and I dig in to the feast set before us; however, my mother sits quietly picking at her chicken. “I heard Jenny’s sister – Cora, isn’t it? – was the latest victim.”
“Dear,” my father stops to look at mother, “not now.”
“Why not now? We cannot ignore it. What if she’s still alive?”
“The men and I are working hard to find all of them. They will be found. Now eat.”
Dinner stayed silent to the end. After helping mother clear the table, I pull on my boots. “Where do you think you’re running off to? Have you already forgotten there is something out there kidnapping people?”
“I haven’t forgotten, but I did forget that I promised to visit Jenny and her family before it gets too late. Is there anything you want me to get while I’m out?”
“You’re not going any-,”
“Oh let him go,” my father cuts mother off, “Pick up some wire. We need to get that chicken coop fixed up proper. That hooligan kid did a nasty job on it.”
I take my leave before mother can protest anymore against it. I know she’s concerned, and that is why I hate lying to her. Turning toward the direction of the woods, I perambulate in a steady pace. Leaves crunch under the pressure of my feet giving the signal of the beginning of fall. A chill blows through the trees and sinks deep into my bones. My destination is exactly a mile and a half away from my home. I know the path well, along with the rest of the woods. The towering trees have been my sanctuary – my only home – throughout my childhood. Now this so-called monster owns it. I laugh to myself. The only being brave enough to journey through the trees and bushes have been me and those who founded this town several years ago when America was discovered. I doubt any other colonies know of this place. Oh well.
Just ahead of me, I can make out my well-hidden cave. Any person just passing by could never spy it. Only I know of it. Checking behind me for any followers, I enter my hideout. A whimper meets my ears, and I wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness to find Cora tied up to a wooden chair. It’s such a sad sight to see my blossom in a horrible state, but it had to be done. “Please let me go. I’ll marry you, just please . . .” Her voice drifts off into sobs. “You should have accepted my proposal before. Too late now.” I reply back. A stench creeps up to my nose, and I cringe. “I suppose I have to get rid of those.” I point towards the two bodies lying on the floor, Farmer Ed and Tod Daniels. Cora doesn’t look to where I’m pointing. She knows full well what I’m talking about. “Are you going to kill me like you killed them?” she asks. I stare at her until she looks away. “I haven’t decided yet.”
Their deaths were gruesome. The bloodstains on the floor, ceiling, and wall are proof of that. I took my time slitting their throats and wrists. Farmer Ed didn’t bleed out as fast as I had hoped, so I had to endure more words from his ancient mind. Tod, on the other hand, bawled and wailed the whole way through the process until he couldn’t utter a single sound anymore. His ending couldn’t come any faster. They cried out, pleading for mercy, but I answered with laughter. They deserved what they got. “Well my dear, I’m off.” I step up to one side of the cave to pick up and pull on my coat made of bear fur. Jenny exaggerated a little when saying I was as tall as the trees and as hairy as any beast, but at least it gave people a little more of a scare. “I realized that it could be a little lonely in this cave with only Farmer Ed and little Tod to keep you company. I’m going to go get you a friend. Actually, you guys would be just like sisters.” I laugh at my joke, but apparently, Cora doesn’t think it’s that humorous. “No! Fredrick, don’t!” Cora begs, “Leave Jenny alone! She’s your best friend. You grew up together for god’s sake!” I casually walk up to her and place my palm upon her cheek. “You’re sister saw me. I can’t risk her finding out who I really am and telling the whole town.” Tears trickle down from Cora’s bloodshot eyes and soak my palm. “Why are you doing this?” she mumbles.
“There are a lot of disgusting and ungrateful people in this town. All I want to do is clean out the town of those people. Ed was a hopeless case. He never cared about anyone, and whoever wished to help him was turned away and not too kindly. Tod was a brat with parents who never took the time to give him a good slap or two. And you? Who do you think you are to turn me down after those years of caring for you? All I wanted was to give you happiness. Your rejection could be mistaken for a stab in the heart, but I forgive you. You’ll learn to love me soon enough.” Cora moves her head away from my hand. I sigh to myself. “I won’t be long.” As I leave, Cora screams out as if anyone will hear her. She can try all she wants, but it is useless.
People are right. There is a monster lurking in these woods, taking people deep within, and they should be afraid. Because I am the monster.