I was at a small local restaurant, situated just outside the train station. I struck up a conversation with a man there, who shared the following tale:
"Behind the apartments in which my father lived runs a shallow creek connected to a deep wood. I never truly knew how large it was, having never crossed to the other side. As a child, there were always things for me to find there, mostly in the form of trash that would come down the water. It wasn't drinkable, even without the refuse, and often had a oily, bubbling quality. Other than that, the only thing in abundance were the bones. Most of the time it was only small animals, their stark white hue easy to pick out against the dark mud and rotting leaves that choked the edges of the stream.
The other thing that was in great supply were the rats. Behind the apartments were a set of large trash bins. This caused the rats to become huge, some even the size of footballs. At least that is what my older brother told me. I never saw those rats up close, though the stories of the them terrified me, often leaving me in a state of panic whenever I was asked to descend the flights of stairs in order to take out the garbage.
Once though, we found a entire deer, its skin stripped away. My dad said that it was likely from a hunter, which always seemed like an off thing to me. My dad took the antlers from the creature, which remain on his mantle till this day. I asked him later what had happened to the body. He said he had left it where it was, and for a long time that was good enough for me. But I remember, or at least I think I remember, returning to the spot where we had found it. I never told anyone what I found, and for a long time I think I blocked it out. But thinking back on it now, I think I can remember what happened.
It was early morning. There was a chill in the air, and the the water had been reduced to a trickle. It didn't take long to find the spot. There was still a lot of blood, and the leaves were covered in it. The spot was as it was for the most part, the shavings off the antlers littering the ground, one of the broken saws tossed to the side. What was missing was the corpse, and along the ground were a set of drag marks. I expected that they would lead up the bank and to the street, having maybe been taken by some waste disposal crew. Instead they followed the river until they were out of sight. I was curious as a child, as my parents could tell you, and also rather morbid, so the prospect of trying to find out what happened to the body wasn't strange to me.
I followed the trail of disturbed leaf cover, as the sun rose and cut its way through the trees. After what I suspect was around a half hour I found the end of the trail and the dear. It was torn apart, the intestines splayed across the ground, the head laying nearby, the same glazed over look in its eyes, its tongue puffy and laying limply against the side of its mouth. The smell was horrible, though I managed to keep myself from getting sick.
For a long time I just stared at it. Last night was the first time I had ever seen something so recently dead up close, and it was even more visceral to see such carnage so soon after. I turned and started to walk away, only to notice large, distinct tracks.
Individually, the impressions were bigger than my hand, and were pressed deep into the mud. I looked around, noticing more bones, most of which were larger than anything that I had seen before. My mind began to race, think of all the things that could have done such a thing. I couldn't think of anything and I went to leave. Only instead, I found myself rooted to the spot in the face of something watching me.
Standing on four legs, across the river, high upon a ledge was an enormous, black thing. Its large eyes were bloodshot, its sides heaving with each breath. Its coat was scraggly, with large patches of missing fur, revealing wrinkled, graying flesh. Its face looked like a small boy, though the features were drawn far apart. It looked down at me, drool foaming along the edges of its lips. With no amount of hurry it made its way, step by step, down the edge of the ridge. I was frozen in place, as suddenly the temperature plummeted. Inch by inch it made its way closer, until all that separated us was the width of the stream.
The smell was terrible, with a overpowering stench of mucus and decay, it breath reeking of something long dead. Slowly I began to back away, stumbling, my feet catching on roots and branches. All the while it stood and watched, its over sized mouth hanging loose in a frown, its teeth yellowed and pointed. I thought that maybe I could make it if I ran. Then I saw its teeth part, as it let out first a shriek, followed by a sharp high pitch howl, as it took a step into the stream and headed towards me.
I screamed, as I scrambled along the river's edge, followed by the sound of its enormous claw, like hands, splashing in the water. My lungs burned in my chest as I heard it coming closer and closer, its body barreling through the brush, causing twigs the snap and break in protest. All the while I kept screaming for help, hoping that someone would notice. I heard it getting closer and closer, as my legs grew heavier, and I felt my breathing waning as my throat tightened.
I couldn't go any further. I had to stop. I collapsed to the ground, sobbing and wheezing as I waited for it to kill me. Waited for the sensation of its teeth digging into my flesh, its wrinkled hands curling around my throat. But it never did. Slowly, I turned around. The woods were empty except for myself, the sound of the creek bubbling up in my ears. After a while I headed back along the stream, heading back to the apartments.
I don't remember much after that, and deep down I hope it was just a nightmare. The fact that it let me go seems to support that. It has been a long time, and I am still unsure if this really happened. After the fact I remember going back to the stream many times, so I assume that I had thought the same thing when I was younger.
I always wondered how rats that size wouldn't be a huge deal for people. I guess I always assumed that my family was just making up stories to scare me. But thinking on it now, I suppose it wouldn't be that big of a issue, especially if something bigger lurking in the woods."