A small village was plagued by a monster. The monster had never been seen nor heard; it never left tracks or evidence. The only proof of its existence was its victims. The victims were always killed in the same way---ten jagged holes would be found in their necks. At first, the monster attacked only small animals. A farmer woke one morning to find that three of his sheep had bled to death. Then, three pet dogs in the village were found dead with the same strange claw marks in their necks. Rumors circulated in the village. Everyone heard about the animals. But no one could give a logical explanation for what had killed them. Next, a young calf was found dead. It had bled to death, Too, its jugular vein punctured by the ten mysterious holes. After this, men began to arm themselves. Shotguns were set beside beds at night. Animals were kept locked in the barns. Throughout the village, a rash of hysteria broke loose. People put forth all kinds of wild speculation. Neighbors eyed each other with suspicion. Then it happened--what everyone had really feared. The monster attacked a human, Elmer, the town drunk. Elmer was found dead one morning, with the ten claw holes in his neck. He had died just like the sheep and the dogs and the calf: He had bled to death. Not many people in the town really cared that Elmer was dead. But it scared them to know that the monster had an appetite for humans as well. Anyone could be its prey. Then sadly, several of the village children just ended up missing without a trace. The men in the village banded together to form a vigilante group. They didn't know what they were fighting, which made things even worse. Craig and Jason, two brothers, were appointed head of the vigilante committee. They lived on the outskirts of the village, near the forest where most people thought the monster lived. The two brothers knew how the monster attacked. It had been their calf that was killed. After the first meeting of the vigilante committee, Craig and Jason went home to discuss their plans. They sat around the oak table in the kitchen with their father. Their old grandmother sat by the fireplace in a rocking chair, her black shawl wrapped around her. "We must begin the watch tonight," Craig said in a low voice. "The other men are afraid to act now, but I think tonight is the time to be on guard." "You're right" his brother agreed. "The thing--whatever it is--strikes every five days. It was five nights ago that Elmer was killed." "You boys sound brave," their father interrupted," but remember what you are dealing with. The thing seems to attack without warning. In the killings so far, there were no signs of struggle. How will you know what to watch for?" The father paused and looked over to his old mother sitting by the fireplace. "They should be careful. Shouldn't they, granny." The old woman looked up at her son. She shuddered for a moment, and then fell silent again. The three men went back to their conversation. They hadn't really expected to get an answer from her. Her mind had been foggy for years. Craig began to outline his plan to his father. "Jason and I will both take our guns to the outskirts of the forest tonight. We'll set ourselves up on the path between the forest and the village. If the monster comes out tonight, it will have to pass by either of us." "And what protection will you have?" the father asked worriedly. "Each other," Craig answered. "we'll stay within shouting distance of each other. And we'll keep our backs to the village so that we face the forest . . . and the monster." "Someone has to do it," Jason said to his father. "We can't just sit back and let the monster kill us off, one by one." Their father stood up from the table and walked around the room once. Then he hugged both of them. "Come back to me alive," he said, his voice choking. The two brothers picked up their rifles from the floor. Craig pulled a long, sharp machete from off the wall. As they left the room, both of them walked over to their old grandmother and kissed her good-bye. Outside, the night was nearly pitch black. A thin sliver of a moon hung low in the western sky. They walked east, toward the forest. As they drew near to where they had planned to station themselves, Jason whispered, "I wonder what it looks like?" "I've been thinking," Craig said, "that it could be a bird. A giant bird that swoops down on you and digs its claws into your neck." They both looked up into the night sky. Clouds had shrouded the thin moon. It would be hard to see a dark shadow descending through the sky. "I thought it might tunnel under the ground, like a huge weasel," Jason said softly. "Then it comes out and attacks you from behind." Both brothers felt the skin crawl on the backs of their necks. Slowly, they both turned and looked behind them. For several minutes, they stood together like that in the dark, paralyzed by their own horrible thoughts. "We must take our places," Craig said finally. "But, remember, stay within shouting distance." The two brothers moved off in opposite directions. They had agreed that each would take twenty long paces and then stop. Standing in the dark, Craig carefully cocked his gun. Then he took the machete and stuck it in the soft ground by his feet. He waited. Forty paces away, Jason fumbled nervously with his gun. He felt his hands shaking. Could he use the gun if he had to? He wished he could see Craig, but his brother was obscured by the dark shadows of bushes and trees. Jason turned around to look toward the village. He wished he were safe, just reading a horror book by the fireplace inside the house. Then he heard the crackling of a twig in back of him. He spun around to face the forest. But he saw nothing and heard no more. Jason relaxed. He set the butt of his gun down in the ground and leaned against a near by apple tree. He started to feel drowsy. Then, he felt the ten claws, digging into his neck. A terrified scream echoed through the forest to Craig. He quickly grabbed his gun and machete and followed the awful screams to his brother. He drew near, but couldn't see anything in the dark night. Then his screams also tore through the night sky. The next morning, the other villagers went out looking for the two brothers when they didn't come back home. They found their bodies laying on the ground next to each other, with the same strange ten jagged holes and claw marks in their necks, and their bodies drained of all blood. They carried the two brother's bodies back to their cabin house. The father met them on the front porch, weeping with fear. He had heard Their terrified screams in his sleep. Now he wept with grief. They laid the two brothers in open coffins and set them inside the cabin for the mourning wake. During the funeral service, all this time, no one had noticed that the old woman was gone from her spot by the fireplace. And no one noticed when she came in through the back door and sat down there again. From her rocking chair, she looked over to Craig and Jason laying in their open coffins. No one heard the hiss that came from her wrinkled mouth. And no one saw the hand with ten claws that she hid under her black shawl.


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Added on September 25, 2010
Last Updated on September 25, 2010