Jesus, that moon is beautiful, Harvey Bowman thought, staring at the huge white orb hanging low over the tree line. He continued to piss on the remains of the dead cow from October of last year. Harvey farted and belched when he was finished then zipped his pants.
Standing in the field, surveying the area, Bowman used the flashlight to find his way toward the trees in search of another missing dairy cow. After a head count at milking time that evening, Harvey noticed one hadn’t come in from the field.
The empty eye sockets of the cow skull started up at him. After the animals had their way with the corpse, bones spread out further across the area than when Harvey originally discovered the dead cow. After the first winter, the bones were pealed clean and sun bleached.
Reconsidering leaving the cow out that night because mastitis was a hefty bill to pay, Harvey marched through the damp grass in his rubber boots toward the trees. A thin layer of fog settled over the ground, cutting the flashlight’s strength in half. Harvey cussed quietly, farted and cussed again.
Nearing the tree line at the edge of the property, Harvey called out to the cow. Dumb with night blindness, the dairy cows sometimes actually mooed back hoping for a hand or boot in the ass back to the stalls.
What made Harvey stop in his tracks was what answered back from the deep shadows under the thick branches didn’t sound like a cow. Certain that cows didn’t grow, chills climbed his back, riddling his face at the guttural sound while Harvey squinted at the blackness under the low twisted maple branches.
Armed with only the flashlight, Harvey debated whether to proceed. Knowing that New York State black bears were skittish of humans, he made more noise to make himself known to the bear, wishing he had a shotgun instead of the flashlight to at least even the odds.
Finally close enough for the flashlight beam to cut the fog, Harvey saw the reflective wild eyes of a huge blonde dog that had a bloody snout, staring up at him from the carcass of his dead cow. Lying on its side, the cow had a hole chewed into its neck, the beast moved to tear at the meat at the flanks. The dead eyes stared at Harvey, accusingly.
Not startled or surprised to see Bowman, the dog didn’t get up right away. Crouched on the far side of the carcass it stared at Harvey while gore dripped from its wet snout. Those icy eyes ground into Harvey’s soul.
Considering its size and the shape of its head, Harvey retracted his first thought of it being a large dog and marveled at the idea he was seeing a rare view of a wild wolf in Upstate New York.
Unexpectedly the wolf lunged over the carcass at Harvey.
Harvey managed a scream and a fart when the wolf made contact with paws on his obese gut, teeth going for his throat, forcing the fat man to the ground.
The scent of ripe shit filled Harvey’s nose and he knew it was his own.
Dawn glowed near the eastern horizon where the hills pressed to give birth to the sun.
Opening her eyes, Courtney wondered if they were still closed, looking out into a dream world because nothing looked familiar, everything appeared in shades of gray as she saw the world from the other side of a black and white television.
Courtney woke cold, naked, muddy and dew soaked under the dock of the swimming pool. Crawling out into the crisp morning air, Courtney stood on trembling legs. Surprisingly her body felt lighter, listless. Naked, she ran to the back door. Reaching for the doorknob, she prayed it wasn’t locked.
Closing the door behind, she padded quietly across the brownstone linoleum of the kitchen and hurried into the bathroom. Courtney closed the door and locked it just as the person she knew was coming down the stairs.
Gretchen tried the doorknob to the bathroom. Finding the door locked, she rapped lightly.
“Courtney, are you in there?”
“Yeah, mum.” Courtney pressed her body against the door with the light off. Shivering in the dark, hands tucked to her chest, she wondered if her mother had seen her come into the house.
“What are you doing up so early?” Gretchen asked.
I might ask you the same question, fucking bitch! Courtney screamed inside her head. “I couldn’t sleep very well.” Under the pool! She felt for the light switch.
“Shall I make you breakfast then?” her mother asked.
“No thanks, mum, I’m not hungry. I’m going to take a shower.”
Courtney heard her mother move off to the kitchen and readied herself as she turned on the light. Excepting to see a monster when the harsh light came on, Courtney bit her lip but only saw her face staring back under a darkened congealed coating of blood. Where the blood had dried it was beginning to flake off.
A tear of sweaty blood rolled down her ribcage and she scratched at it with a long fingernail, much longer than the day before. Looking at her hand, Courtney recalled the searing pain and metamorphosis. The cut on her forehead from where she hit the sink was barely visible. The scar from the attack around her breast was gone.
The color of her irises had changed though in this present state she could only determine they’d gotten considerably lighter.
“So fancy that, will you?” she whispered to the image in the mirror, not her, the beast within.
Courtney closed her eyes breathing deep, trying to piece together what she’d lost from the night before. The amount of memory loss was great but with some effort flashes of scenarios played out in her head. She remembered the pain vividly.
When she tried to ask the monster that was on the loose in her head where all the blood came from, it stopped dancing and laughing long enough to answer vaguely.
You killed a cow last night.
Courtney came to terms with that quickly, it wasn’t so hard to believe any longer. Was that all? She wondered briefly, I think there’ s something else.
The monster shook its head and started dancing again.
Opening her eyes, Courtney thought she still looked pretty under all the gook she even had a mild glow, though it might be light playing off her pale flesh. Courtney understood the whole world would be different now that she was color-blind.
Soul Takers available at Amazon.com
Stranger Beside Me available at Amazon.com
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