The Winter Babysitter

📅 Published on December 1, 2021

“The Winter Babysitter”

Written by Erik Peabody
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 21 minutes

Rating: 7.50/10. From 2 votes.
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Well, let’s get one thing out on the table, right at the start.  I recognize that this explanation here is likely going to be fairly difficult for you all to believe, and the last thing I want to do is make this even harder to swallow by beating around the bush.  There’s a saying in the self-help world about “eating the frog,” which is to say: whatever the ugliest, grossest, most difficult-to-stomach part of a task is, well, you should just step right up and take care of that part first.  Get it out of your way, so it’s not hanging over your head while you do the rest of your work.  In my forty-five years on this earth, I’ve found that to be pretty decent advice, and I’ve done my best to follow it whenever possible.

Still, things are sometimes easier said than done.  It has not escaped me that I’m still talking around the edge of this thing without actually tackling it head-on.  Maybe part of it is that I still don’t quite believe all of it myself, even with the horror show still drying upstairs, and writing something down on paper has a way of legitimizing things.  Once you write a thing down, you have to look at it and decide if it’s a good representation of reality.  If it is, then you’ve helped define the shape of something.  If it’s not, then all you’re really doing is looking at evidence of your own insufficiency.  Or worse, your own insanity.

So, fuck it.  Here it is.  Santa Claus is real.  He’s real, and he’s a goddamn murderer.

I hope you’re not waiting for a punchline, because there is no fucking punchline.  Not only is this not a joke, but a punchline symbolizes the end of a story, and that’s not quite where we are.  I’m writing this down now not because this whole weird situation is over, which it isn’t, but because it’s the first chance I’ve had to actually collect my thoughts.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have all of this put behind me, but I’m starting to think that might not actually happen.  In the chance that I’m unable to follow up on this later, I guess having a partial account of things is better than nothing.  I’m probably kidding myself if I think that this won’t all still get placed at my feet, but you can only do what you can do.

Alright, the frog is eaten.  Now we can get on with the rest of it.

This whole situation started yesterday, when our little corner of Montana lost both power and phone service on December 24th.  I’m about half an hour north of Glasgow, which is itself smack dab in the middle of nowhere.  It’s pretty country, mostly hills and plains, but in the depths of winter, it turns into a pure white vista that stretches as far as you can see in any direction.  I generally don’t mind.  I’ve lived here my whole life, and the isolation is part of the appeal.  I get my firewood delivered at the start of the season, I’ve got a large freezer full of venison and other meat down in the cellar, and sometimes you just have to hunker down for a month or so with a few good books to keep you company.  I drove long-haul trucking through my earlier years, and was smart with my money, so these days I live off of interest and keep things simple.  I’ve never been one to need much company, and driving into town a few times a month to grab a beer was enough to keep me feeling like I was part of the community.  Most of my time is spent tending to the house and the property, keeping my small vegetable garden, and watching whatever DVDs the mailman brings from Netflix.  I’m just as surprised as you are that they still offer that service, but it works perfectly for a Luddite like myself.  I have a computer, but outside of the occasional email to family, I don’t use it for much.

I’ve been here since 2005, and I spent thirteen years being perfectly happy in my quiet, out-of-the-way sanctuary before John Percival and his family moved in down the road.  Looking at that written down, “down the road” seems to imply a bit more distance than is actually involved here.  The road in question, Alpine Drive, branches off Highway 24 and twists through the hills in a roughly eastern direction before terminating at a small river a few miles past my house.  When I bought the place, there was only one other house on Alpine, and that was near the intersection with 24.  I could go whole weeks without seeing someone else if that was my inclination, and it frequently was.

Then, John and his family decided to have their godawful McMansion built out here.  If I decided to get in my car and drive over to visit, which is a thing I cannot fathom doing, it would take me about ten minutes to navigate the road and arrive at their driveway.  In reality, though, their house is not one-quarter mile from mine, just two hills over.  That means that I am graced on a daily basis with the sight of that abomination of architecture, and that every sound from their house drifts an easy distance on the wind right over to my ears.

I can best describe John as being a privileged piece of shit.  He’s tall and thin, with a posture that seemed determined to make him look like a vulture.  For some reason he insists on keeping a beard on his face, if you could call that loose scraggle of wiry hair a beard.  To the best of my knowledge, he does something with computers, but we never talked enough for me to get all of the basics.  I endured six months of disruptive construction while they were building his house before I even had a chance to meet the man, and though I did my best to keep an open mind even then, he didn’t do himself any favors.  I had gone over one weekend afternoon with a six-pack of Coors and a box of cookies for his family to introduce myself, doing the best I could think of to be neighborly.  Within five minutes of opening the door, John had suggested to me that I was somehow being inconsiderate to bring something with so much sugar, and that he hadn’t drank Coors since he had been “slumming it with the scholarship kids” at college.  I held out another fifteen minutes before finding some excuse and heading home, but had still had the misfortune to meet his wife and son.  Melinda was loud and condescending, with the type of laugh that would cause even a Buddhist monk to think about grabbing her neck and throttling her.  Max was worse.

He was plunked down on the couch when I walked in, greasy hair hanging in his face and wearing a shirt that advertised a band called “Anal Cunt.” He didn’t bother looking up or saying hello, focused on some handheld video game.  He didn’t say one word to me the whole time I was there, but his snickers and eye-rolls didn’t escape me during my brief conversation with his father.  When I started to tell John about myself, as one will do when they first meet someone, Max interrupted me with a loud yawn.  I stopped talking, hoping (but by that point, not expecting) John to tell him to not be rude.  Instead, Max turned to his dad and asked, “what smells like shit?” before shifting his eyes back to me.

“Well, I was working in my garden a bit earlier.  You might be smelling some of the compost from that,” I replied.

Max looked at me a moment longer, then turned back to his dad.  “Why did we move here if all the locals smell like shit?” he asked, and then got up and left the room.

I somehow managed to keep my calm while I ended my conversation with John, who didn’t offer any sort of apology for his son’s behavior.  That was the last time I had seen Max up close until yesterday, though I was constantly aware of his presence.  In the following weeks and months, I was gifted with a comprehensive education in the world of extreme heavy metal.  Max played his music loud with his windows open, and wouldn’t you know it that his room faced towards my house, an uninterrupted quarter of a mile away.  My afternoons gardening were now accompanied by the soothing tones of bands like Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, and Carcass.  I was only able to identify them after my constant exposure granted me the ability to start recognizing some of the growled, barked, and shrieked lyrics, and I looked up those snippets online.  I wasn’t at all interested in the music, but I felt the need to at least put a name to them.  Did I mention that there’s not a lot to do out in the middle of nowhere?

So that was my life for the next year or so.  John and his charming family moved in during late September, 2018.  As of this writing, I have spent fifteen months in the aural shadow of a dumb fucking teenager with terrible taste in music.  I started going into town more, and also spent more time inside than outside, so that the music would be at least a little muffled.  I tried talking to John about it a few times, but he wasn’t interested in meeting me halfway.  In his eyes, he had paid good money to live where he did, and it wasn’t his problem if anyone else disliked his family’s lifestyle.

I am not particularly comforted by the fact that Max is now dead.  He was a horrible kid, but horrible kids sometimes turn out okay, all things said and done.  At the very least, he deserved the chance.  I will not miss his constant bombardment on my life, but I would never have wished serious ill upon him.  Still, I suppose there is some irony in the fact that his bedroom now looks like the album art for one of those revolting CDs he listened to.  I was there.  I saw it.

I suppose that brings me to the actual issue at hand.  I mentioned that the whole thing started yesterday, but I guess it actually goes back a bit farther than that.  Two weeks ago, on the 12th or so, John Percival knocked on my door.  It’s the first time that he’d ever come over, and I’m not quite sure if he was looking for help or delivering a veiled threat.  Like I mentioned, the Percivals and I weren’t on the most friendly terms, and I can only imagine what their thoughts of me were.  If I had to guess, to them, I was some backwater dimwit that happened to live nearby and had been a thorn in their side about their son’s behavior.

I heard the knock around noon.  I put down my sandwich and went to answer the door.  When I opened it and saw John, I didn’t invite him inside, and he didn’t ask.  It had been cold out, as the middle of December usually is, but we’d had a few days of unseasonably warm weather, and he didn’t look too uncomfortable in his turtleneck sweater and jeans.  The snow had even started to melt.

I was more than a little surprised to see John at my door.  The sound of blast beat drums and screeching guitars drifted in the front door from their house.  After a moment, I said, “hi, John…” but didn’t have a chance for more before he cut me off.  Maybe I would have invited him in if I had gotten the opportunity.  Who knows.

“So, Melinda and I are going out of town for a while,” he said, with a tone like I was the one imposing on him.  “We’re visiting some family in Florida.  Max is staying here.  He doesn’t like flying and he’s old enough to take care of himself for a few weeks.  I trust there won’t be any trouble.”  That last sentence had an odd inflection, and I wondered if he was questioning the wisdom of leaving Max home alone, or if he was telling me to not start any shit with the kid.

“Uh, okay,” I responded.  I wasn’t sure what John was actually looking for here.

He reached into his pocket and withdrew a small something, which he handed to me.  “Here’s the number we’ll be at,” he said, and I saw with some amusement that it was his business card, with a handwritten phone number on the back.  “If anything happens, this is how you can reach us.  You…”  He hesitated for a moment, his eyes darting over my shoulder into the living room.  “You do have a phone, right?”

“Yep,” I said, not missing a beat.  “I traded a couple of jugs of moonshine for one last year.”

“Okay, good,” he replied, missing the sarcasm.  “We should be back by the first of the year.”  He hesitated for a moment, apparently searching his brain for anything that he had missed.  “Alright, then.  Goodbye.”

With that, he started to walk down the front steps and towards the driveway, where I could see his BMW.  No “thank you,” no “Merry Christmas,” no nothing.  After watching him for a moment, I closed the door and went back to my lunch.

So, my Christmas gift from my lovely neighbors was a couple of thankless weeks making sure their horrible child didn’t die in their absence.  I was irritated, sure, but more by John’s presumption and general attitude than I was by the actual task.  Even though Max was a terrible little kobold, I figured he could find a way to survive without starving or burning the house down for a few weeks.  It would probably be business as usual for me, just living my life and doing my best to ignore the omnipresence of Max’s music.  I made a mental note to take a look towards their house a few times a day just to make sure that it hadn’t sunken into the earth or anything.  I figured that it wouldn’t be too much of a headache, and even though John was an unappreciative prick, helping out was still the neighborly thing to do.

How wrong I was.

Things went about as I expected for a while.  I’d made a point of stepping outside a couple of times each day and taking a gander across the distance between my house and John’s.  It was more or less unchanged each time: an opulent, out-of-place atrocity sitting in an otherwise beautiful vista.  In the evenings, a few lights were on.  No matter what time of day it was, abrasive buzzsaw music drifted over to me, slightly muted by the blanket of snow laying on top of the hills.  That was it.  I kept to myself, staying inside more frequently when the weather turned cold again a few days after John and Melinda left.  It was snowing regularly again, but I still went out to take a look at their house at least twice a day.  After all, even though I hadn’t volunteered for this, I hadn’t put my foot down and refused it either.  For better or worse, I had some amount of responsibility here.

As I already mentioned, the power and phones went out on Christmas Eve.  It happened fairly early in the day, right as I was having some oatmeal for breakfast.  I had been watching a DVD of Jingle All the Way, which is a godawful film, but one I always feel compelled to watch around the holidays.  One moment, Arnold was running through a shopping mall, scarf trailing behind him, and the next, nothing.  The TV shut off, the lights went out, and things got quiet.  I could still hear the crackling of the fire in the fireplace, but it took me a few moments to realize that was ALL that I could hear.  For the first time in months, there was no death metal dancing at the periphery of my hearing.  True, I was without power, but so was Max.  It put a smile on my face.

After finishing my breakfast, I went outside and looked over at the Percivals’ house.  It briefly crossed my mind to go over and check on the kid, but I quickly dismissed it.  My truck had four wheel drive, but it would still be a bit of a trek over there, and my only thanks would likely be a healthy dose of snide bullshit.  I made a mental note to check in an hour to see if smoke was coming out of their chimney.  If it was, then Max would have gotten a fire started, and would probably be just fine.  I didn’t know if the power would be out for ten minutes or ten days, but my experience had been that it tended to take a while for the power company to fix things this far out in no man’s land during the winter.  I went back inside, tossed on an extra sweater, and sat down with a book.

The majority of that day was peaceful in a way that I had truly missed.  Sure, there were no lights or television, but it was the first true silence I’d had in months, and I was relishing it.  I had looked out the window towards John’s house around noon, and had seen smoke drifting out of the chimney.  The house didn’t appear to be on fire, so I figured things were alright.  I returned to my book.  Hours later, around six in the evening, I checked on Max again, and nothing appeared changed.  It was full dark out and there was no reason to stay up, so I turned in for the night and went to sleep.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, I woke up suddenly to the sound of glass breaking.  It was so quiet that, for a minute, I thought I was dreaming.  Then I heard the distant sound of someone shouting, and came awake.  I had no idea what time it was, and my brain was still foggy with sleep.  The first thing I thought was that Max had broken into my house, for some reason or another.  Then, as I continued to fully come into consciousness, I realized that the sounds were muffled, and couldn’t have come from within my house, which only left one option.

I stumbled out of bed and into the kitchen, which had the closest window facing the Percivals’ house.  I could see what looked like the light of a battery-powered electric lamp in one of the upstairs rooms, and shadows were moving back and forth in front of it.  It was too far away for me to make out details, but my first impression was that there was some struggle going on.  I started to turn away from the window, planning on getting over to the house as quickly as possible, but then something caught my eye and I stopped.  The sky was clear and the moon was mostly full, so there was just enough ambient light for me to notice that something was strange about their house.  I couldn’t make out details at this distance, but it looked like some amorphous shape was on their roof.

I decided that I didn’t have time to puzzle out what was going on.  There was obviously something bad happening, and whether or not I liked the kid, he needed my help.  I tossed on some warm clothes, my good boots and my hat, and then opened the gun safe in the closet.  Just like every self-respecting Montana man, I was a hunter and a gun enthusiast.  The safe wasn’t locked unless I went to town, so it was quick business to open it up and grab the Mossberg 12 gauge.  With that in hand, I pocketed a small LED flashlight and went out into the night.

I didn’t even consider driving over.  It would take too long, and would also announce my presence to anyone that was in the house.  I wasn’t sure what I was about to walk into, but I figured it would be best to have the element of surprise.  Besides, I was used to hiking in the snow, and figured I could make it to the house in about ten minutes.  I stood on my porch for a moment, looking over towards the house and seeing what there was to see.  There wasn’t much.  The light was still on in the window, but I could no longer see movement in front of it.  There was also still something on the roof, but it was too dark and far away to make out.  I started walking.

About twelve minutes later, I was at the front door.  It was hideously quiet.  I had tried to see what was on the roof as I was approaching, but the angle was wrong and I decided it wasn’t worth circling the house trying to get a better look.  The shotgun was in my left hand as I gently tried the doorknob with my right.  It was unlocked.

The door swung open slowly and noiselessly.  There was still a fire burning low in the fireplace, and it cast a flickering glow across the large, high-ceilinged living room.  I stood on the threshold for a moment, holding the shotgun in a low ready position and making sure that none of the dancing shadows were more than they appeared to be.  After I was convinced that I had seen all there was to see, I stepped in.  The snow trapped in the treads of my boots made light crunching noises on the tile floor of the entryway, and I silently swore under my breath at the noise.

The lower story was mostly comprised of an open floor plan, which meant that I had a decent view of the living room, kitchen, and dining room.  All of that was roughly to my left, with a stairway just to my right, leading up to the second floor.

I hesitated.  This was a big house.  For a moment, I considered trying to systematically make sure the lower floor was empty before heading upstairs, but quickly dismissed the notion.  I wasn’t a soldier or a cop, and I didn’t know the first thing about the proper way to go about any of this.  All I knew was that something was wrong, and I had seen a light and movement up on the second floor.  Tightening my grip on the shotgun, I approached the stairs.

The light from the fireplace only reached about halfway up the staircase before dying out, and the rest was hooded in darkness.  There was a dim glow at the top, probably cast down a hallway from the lamp in Max’s room.  It struck me that I was only assuming that the light was from Max’s room, and the thought made me realize again that I had no idea what the fuck I was doing here.  There could be ten rooms upstairs for all I knew.  As much as I hated to do so, I’d have to use the flashlight.  It was a bright little thing, and anyone in the house would immediately know where I was when I turned it on.  I brought it out and turned it on, placing it awkwardly in my left hand, which was also holding the forearm used to pump shells into the shotgun.  Thus armed, I started up the stairs.

My whole body was a bundle of nerves.  Every few steps, I’d stop, thinking I heard something.  The stairs weren’t carpeted, and every time I put my foot down, I was acutely aware of each squeak, groan, and scuff that my boots made on the bare wood.  My eyes were glued to the top of the stairway, and I expected that, at any moment, the dim glow from the battery lamp would be occluded as someone stepped in front of it.  The one calming thought in my mind was that there was practically no chance that I would miss if I had to fire the shotgun.  This was quickly followed by a reminder to myself to not pull the trigger until I knew who I was looking at.  The last thing I needed to do was smear Max all over the far wall.

By the time I was nearing the top of the stairs, something else had started to draw my attention.  There was a smell up here, and it wasn’t a good one.  I had done enough hunting to recognize the odor of a butchered animal, and that’s exactly what I was smelling.  There was something else mixed in with it, and I wasn’t quite able to place it.  It was something that reminded me of visiting my grandparents’ farm when I was a kid.

At the top of the stairs, I waited, trying to figure out what to do.  The stairs formed a t-shaped intersection with a hallway, and the light was coming from a partially-open door down towards the right.  Looking both ways, I could see several doors in each direction.  It again crossed my mind to try to do some sort of systematic search, but I quickly dismissed it.  If there was some burglar or psychopath in here, they likely knew that I was here too.  If they had decided to hole up in some other part of the house, either to hide from me or to ambush me, there wasn’t much that I could do about it.  I needed to make sure Max was okay before I did anything else.  The light from the room to the right was bright enough for me to see that the hallway itself was empty.  I turned off my flashlight and put it back in my pocket.  Doing my best to walk quietly, I went down the hall to the right, towards the source of the light.

After taking only a few steps, I stopped.  There was a sound, something that I hadn’t heard from the staircase.  It was a scratching, rustling sound, and I had no idea what it could be.  It seemed to be coming from the room ahead of me.  I continued approaching, hyper-aware of how I placed each booted step, staying as silent as I could.

Ten steps later, I stood outside of the room.

The door was ajar, but I couldn’t see much inside, just one wall and the edge of what appeared to be a bed.  I could see something dark spattered on part of the wall, and the smell had gotten much worse.  The scratching sound was still coming from inside, and though it was louder, I still had no clue as to what was causing it.  My heart was racing, and I realized that I was holding my breath.  I forced myself to take two deep, quiet breaths, trying to settle my nerves.  Using the muzzle of the shotgun, I slowly pushed the door open.

It’s just a bit after dawn right now, as I’m sitting here writing all of this down, and things seem different with the sun coming up.  Part of me wants to walk back upstairs to Max’s room to convince myself that I wasn’t imagining all of this.  There’s dried blood on my hands, and I suspect that’s enough evidence, but it still doesn’t seem real.  I’ve almost gone back upstairs a few times to make sure, but I wasn’t going to do that earlier.  Not when it was still dark.  Because, if it was real, then who’s to say it wasn’t back up there, waiting for me?  Now that there’s some light in the sky, that fear has diminished some, but it also makes me less and less sure that this all actually happened.  I’m sitting here, in this modern house, like something out of a TV show.  It’s a beautiful winter morning outside, and everything down here seems like a picture of American comfort.  Of course it’s hard for me to convince myself that there’s the mutilated body of a young boy upstairs.  But there is, and I don’t have to go back and look at it again to be sure of that.

As the door swung open, the room was revealed in increments.  I saw the rest of the bed, and noticed that some of the dark splotches on the wall were also on the pillow.  The whole room was cast in a stark light by the lantern, almost appearing to be black and white.  Next, I saw the edge of the window, and could tell that was what had caused the sound of breaking glass.  There was a jagged negative space where there was no reflection.  Just past that was the edge of a desk, and a chair, and…

…and a shape.  A hunched, dark shape on the floor, crouched down low and moving restlessly.  I could see legs sticking out from past its right side, motionless on the floor.  Or, rather, not quite motionless.  Every few seconds, they moved slightly, jittered.  There were dark patches all around, pooled on the floor, on the desk, everywhere.  The shape looming over the legs appeared to be human, bent low with its back to me.  From the shifting contours of its shoulders in the stark lamplight, it looked to be doing something with its arms.  I couldn’t see what it was, the bulk of the shape blocking my view.

Right at that moment, the door made a small creak as it continued to open on its arc.  The figure immediately stopped moving.  For a moment, I couldn’t breathe, and then my instincts kicked in and I moved forward, entering the room with the shotgun raised.

“Don’t move!  Show me your fucking hands!” I yelled, distractedly aware of the fact that I was giving contrary commands.  I was about five feet behind the hunched figure, and still couldn’t see much of what was in front of it.  However, I could make out  a tuft of hair and the top of a human head on the floor to its left.  Max.

“Put ‘em up!” I shouted again, and waited.  I didn’t know what to do.  I couldn’t just pull the trigger and shoot this person in the back.  I was fairly certain that Max was injured or dead, but what if he wasn’t?  The shotgun was loaded with buckshot, and at this range, it would tear right through the hunched figure and hit whatever was past him, including the boy.  The frigid air coming in from the broken window made me aware of every bead of sweat on my brow.

The figure suddenly seemed to relax, its shoulders slumping.  I heard a low, gurgling rattle, like it was clearing its throat, and then it started to turn, still crouched.  I realized that it was wearing some sort of long coat or cloak, trimmed with fur.  There was a hat on its head, something that looked almost like a turban or a fez.  It turned with its face away from the light, so I only caught it as a series of moving shadows, but there was something strange about it.  It first looked to be the face of an old man, complete with a long white beard.  I had just enough time to think, “Santa Claus?”  Then, the shadows shifted and it almost appeared to be a beautiful woman, and then changed more, resembling a cadaverous old witch.

I was still trying to wrap my head around this when my gaze shifted past it, to the boy on the floor.  It was indeed Max, and it took me less than a second to realize that he was dead.  The boy’s shirt was pulled up, and his midsection was a tangle of gore.  The lantern light gleamed off torn, wet flesh, slick intestines, and brief extrusions of white bone.  This person had gutted him like a wolf guts its prey.

The figure continued to turn, and I could now see one of its hands, fingers long like talons, holding something.  Suddenly, the mystery odor I had been smelling clicked into place in my mind.  Straw.  Fresh straw, like what was in the barn at my grandparents’ farm.  The creature’s claws were holding a handful of straw.

I suddenly had had enough.  I didn’t know who or what this person was, but I knew that Max was dead, and this thing was responsible.  In my terror and confusion, the shotgun had slumped towards the ground, but I now lifted it up to the figure and pulled the trigger.

I can’t quite describe what happened in that next instant.  There was a deafening, flat percussion as the 12 gauge went off in the small room.  For a second, I thought I saw the figure’s clothing blow back, shredded by the buckshot, but at the same time, I saw something else.  The figure somehow became insubstantial, and grew larger.  That… that’s not quite right.  It didn’t grow larger, but… spread upwards.  It was like holding a light a distance in front of a small object in a dark room, so that its small shadow is cast on the wall, and then moving the light closer, so that the shadow stretches and elongates.  This person, this thing… it somehow did that.  It spread out and grew and was clinging to the walls, to the ceiling, stretching across the ridges and protrusions of the furniture in the room.  And then, almost too quickly to notice, it coalesced into one spot on the far wall and slid out the window.

There’s not much else to say.  I of course ran to the window to look for the thing, but it was gone.  I thought I could hear some noise on the roof, but it stopped after a moment.  Max was dead on the floor.  I briefly checked his pulse at his neck, but knew that it was a worthless gesture.  The damage was too extensive.  Too obvious.

After a few minutes, I walked downstairs, shocked.  Some time passed, and my brain slowly started working again.  I decided that I needed to write all of this down, while it was still fresh.  First, I hunted through the kitchen cupboards until I found a bottle of whisky, which helped settle my nerves.  I saw that it was just after 2:00 in the morning.  I sat, and I drank, and I gradually got ahold of myself.

So, here we are.  I need to go back to my place, clean up, and drive into town.  Part of the reason I’m writing this down now is that I’m still not sure that this is all real.  I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to come back with the sheriff and find that things are different here.  Maybe the kid won’t have his guts torn open.  Maybe all they’ll find is a shotgun blast to his midsection.  Maybe the body won’t even be here at all.  Whatever that thing was, it’s still out there, and it might come back.  Who knows what it can and can’t do.  Seeing something like what I saw tends to shake your assumptions about reality.

It’s going to take a while for me to get to town, with the roads covered in snow and all, and I can only imagine that it’s going to be a few very long days while this all gets sorted out.  Like I mentioned, I suspect I’m going to have a hell of a time convincing the authorities that I didn’t kill Max myself.  After all, I’m just a recluse living out here in the middle of nowhere.  I was alone with the kid.  I had a motive.

Still, there’s one thing that makes me think I won’t be a prime suspect.  Sure, the kid was a headache and I had some sort of reason to want him dead, but…

…but why would I have wanted to stuff his guts with straw?

Rating: 7.50/10. From 2 votes.
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Written by Erik Peabody
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Erik Peabody


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