(A scary story about hunting.)
“We’ve been out here for four hours,” Red complained. I winced as whiskey and gingivitis breath wafted across my face.
“We’re getting this fuckin’ moose,” I answered. “Dad said we wouldn’t be able to, so that means we’re gonna. I don’t care if we starve to death up here.”
Red belched out another complaint, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was thinking about bagging that son of a bitch. It’d been tearing up Mom’s garden and shitting all over the yard. She’d missed out on being in the latest flower show after all her prize petunias got eaten.
No more. “Never again,” as they say. I’d be mounting that antlered head over the fireplace before the weekend was over.
“What’s that over there?” Red asked, pointing out ahead of us. I followed his finger.
“Looks like a raccoon,” I replied. I adjusted my rifle sight and got a better look. Yep. Raccoon.
“I’m gonna take him,” my brother said, and started to aim.
“No you’re not,” I insisted, and pushed the gun out of the way. “I’m not gonna have you scare off the motherfucker we’re here to kill just because you’re bored.”
Red muttered something and took another pull from his bottle.
“How many times has Dad told you not to get drunk while you’ve got a gun out?” I asked.
“How many times have I told you to eat my ass?” he replied, and made a kissing sound at me.
“A lot,” I murmured. “A real lot.”
We sat in silence for another half hour. My mood worsened. I was irritated with Red, but that was par for the course. He’s an irritating guy. Most of my annoyance was reserved for our father. He was so convinced we wouldn’t be able to take down that moose. It wasn’t even a question for him. His two sons, or as called us, his “beautiful daughters,” didn’t have what it took to hunt something that wasn’t small and weak.
“A moose ain’t a raccoon or a possum,” he told us as we got ready to head out. “It’s not one of those big, retarded boars that comes into the yard all drunk on fermented apples. A moose’ll mess you up. It’ll knock you out of the tree you’re in and fuck you in the mouth before you even get your rifle sighted.”
I scowled at the recollection and scratched away some of the pink paint on my Hello Kitty rifle. It’d been Dad’s gift to me when I turned thirteen.
“I had it custom painted by the Oriental at the hardware store,” he told me after I’d unwrapped it. “She though it was real funny.”
I grumbled under my breath as paint flakes accumulated under my thumbnail.
“I gotta take a shit,” Red whispered.
“So go,” I answered. He dropped his pants and hung his butt over the wooden edge of the blind.
I punched the side of his leg, not caring if I knocked him out of the tree. “Not here!” I demanded, disgusted. “Climb down, for Christ’s sake.”
Red sighed and zipped his fly. He squeezed through the narrow opening and clambered down the rope ladder. Doing my best to ignore the intestinal orchestra being conducted beneath me, I stared out into the foggy woods and looked for anything resembling a moose.
Leaves rustled under the blind and Red was complaining about something again. I was about to tell him to quiet down when something in the distance caught my eye. Movement. It was barely visible in the pre-dawn light and its shape was obstructed by the fog, but I could tell it was an animal. Much bigger than a raccoon, too.
The tree shook while Red climbed back up. “I think there was a spider on one of the leaves I wiped with,” he declared. “My asshole’s itch–”
“Shut up,” I hissed. “I see something.”
Red, to his credit, did as he was told. I pointed toward the shape in the fog.
“You see it?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “Is it him?”
“Not sure.” I aimed the rifle and tried to zoom in. It didn’t help much. The fog was too thick.
“It’s gotta be him,” Red whispered. “It’s too big to be anything else.”
I nodded. “It looks like it’s moving toward us. We’ll be able to see him soon. Then we’ll take the shot. I don’t want to waste all this time just to kill a deer.”
We watched in silence for a minute or two. The animal was definitely getting closer. The fog obscured much of the details, but I was certain it was the moose. It was too big to be a deer. I was trying to will it to turn a little so I could see its profile. Then I’d be certain.
Behind us, a deep bellow split the silence. My brother and I gasped and Red involuntarily squeezed off a shot. It struck the animal we’d been watching, but it didn’t fall. It disappeared behind the trees.
“What the fuck was that?” he shouted
“That was a fuckin’ moose call,” I answered, and scrambled to turn around. The sound came again. Louder. More insistent.
Red and I peered over the opposite edge of the blind, our rifles poised to take the moose down.
“How goes the hunt, girls?”
“Son of a bitch,” I muttered. Standing ten feet away from our makeshift hunting blind was Dad. He was holding his grandfather’s old moose caller.
“Good morning, sweethearts!” he announced. He beamed up at us with the condescending smile I’d grown to loathe. “So which one of you fired? What’d I teach you kids about trigger discipline? Huh?”
Neither of us answered. Dad’s smile faded.
“That wasn’t a rhetorical question,” he said, surprising both Red and me with his vocabulary. “Who fired?”
“Me,” Red admitted.
Dad shook his head with exaggerated disappointment. “You ditzy motherfucker,” he laughed. “C’mon down. Both of you. We all know you’re not gonna bag shit today.” He turned around and started walking back toward the house.
Red groaned and flopped onto his back, rubbing his eyes. “This was a waste of fuckin’ time,” he moaned. “He’s never gonna let us live this down.”
I stood up slung my rifle over my shoulder. I glanced over to where Red had fired. Nothing was there. “Must’ve just grazed the thing,” I thought, and wondered if it had actually been the moose.
As I started lowering myself onto the rope ladder, another sound erupted around us. I froze in place while Red leapt to his feet.
“What the fuck?” we exclaimed in unison. We turned toward Dad, who was about fifty feet away. I expected to see him laughing and holding up the moose caller. But he was doing neither. In fact, he’d dropped the caller and was staring out into the woods. His eyes were wide.
“Dad?” Red called. His voice was weaker than usual. He sounded concerned. Scared.
I whirled around and peered in the direction Dad was facing. The animal in the fog was back. And it was much closer.
With this better view, I could tell it was unlike any animal I’d ever even heard about, let alone encountered. It was massive; just as tall as the tallest moose, but three times longer. It had six, long legs and two knees in each of them.
“Let me up!” Dad shrieked, and he bolted toward the rope ladder. “Let me up!”
I pulled my rifle to my shoulder and aimed down the Hello Kitty scope. I fired. The bullet struck the hairless, gray skin of one of its shoulders. The animal made no noise. It crept toward the blind.
I fired twice more. Yellow blood drooled out of each hole, but the thing didn’t slow. I could see what I thought had been antlers from a distance were semi-transparent bones. Its mouth was partially open and filled with rows of black teeth. Four clusters of red, compound eyes dotted its forehead and face.
I kept shooting while Dad screamed and shouted to us to let him up. I realized he should’ve been up here by now. I glanced over my shoulder and saw something I’d never expected: Red had pulled the rope ladder up into the blind. Dad was right below us. His screams had been pleas.
“What are–” I began, but Red just shook his head.
“It’s better this way,” he said. His jaw was set. His eyes were clear.
I opened my mouth to protest, but then stopped. I nodded.
Dad, realizing we wouldn’t help him, took off for the house. The creature, which had only ambled without purpose up to that point, shot forward in a blur of limbs and bones. In seconds, it was on our father.
Red and I watched with detached amazement as the thing tore our father limb from limb. He screamed the entire time, never taking his eyes off us. The sound of splintering bones and tearing flesh soon overtook his shrieks as he weakened. His intestines were tangled in the creature’s antlers and blood was everywhere.
Dad died thirty seconds after the attack. The beast had consumed the majority of his body five minutes later.
I watched with curiosity, and was surprised by my general disinterest. “It’s gotta be shock,” I told myself. “This is a traumatic event, after all.”
I glanced over at Red. His expression was similar to what I assumed mine was.
After it had finished eating, the creature looked up at us with its numerous eyes, licked its chops, and trudged back into the forest. Neither Red nor I would ever see it again.
Once it was gone, Red faced me and asked, “what are we gonna tell Mom? And the police?”
I shrugged. “Tell them what really happened, I guess. Except for the ladder part.”
In the corner of my eye, something moved. I turned in its direction. A bull moose was watching us from behind a pair of white birch trees. I raised my Hello Kitty rifle, aimed, and fired. The moose collapsed in a heap.
“I told you I could do it, Dad,” I thought. I looked at the pulpy remains of his flesh and entrails as they steamed in the cool morning air. I felt a pang of bittersweet remorse. As awful as he’d been, I think he would’ve been proud of me. A bird flew down and started pecking at a chunk of his scalp. I sighed. But I guess I’ll never know.