By J F Pierce
The full moon created a patchwork of shadow and light among the junk cars in Wayne’s backyard. Beyond the maze of dented fenders and cracked windshields, the thick piney woods came right up to the property line. The undergrowth pressed in close, as nature tried to claim the bodies of the dead machines.
Wayne rounded the battered hulk of an old Impala, and swept his shotgun from side to side as he searched for signs of his quarry.
“Damn dirty chupacabras,” he muttered.
Chupacabras were the foulest of all creatures, except for maybe space aliens. He looked up at the sky, and shivered despite the heat.
“Damn communist space aliens!”
Something moved to his right, close and just at the edge of his vision. Wayne’s chest tightened, and a chill crept up his spine. He spun and raised the shotgun. Eyes wide, he braced himself. His finger tightened on the trigger.
His cat, Mr. Fluffy Britches, stared back from atop an old stove. Wayne released the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. His heart still thumped like a drummer on speed, and beads of sweat tickled his scalp.
“Damn, little buddy, you almost got ventilated.”
The cat plopped down on the rusted stovetop, and started to groom itself. Wayne turned and walked back toward his trailer. Enough excitement for one night. The rickety steps creaked as he climbed up to the back door and pulled it open.
“C’mon, Fluffy Britches, it’s movie time,” Wayne called from the doorway. The obese cat padded toward him as if it knew he would wait. “Yeah, take your time. I’m just the doorman.”
Giving his backyard one last wary glance, he pulled the door closed behind the cat. He leaned the shotgun against the wall, and slid each of the four bolts closed.
He took a crumpled pack of smokes from the chest pocket of his coveralls, and shook one out. With a click, his lighter sprouted its familiar yellow flame. He drew hard on the cigarette and held it in.
Twin jets of smoke came from his nostrils as he stepped over piles of tools and stacks of old magazines to reach the refrigerator. Shaking his head, he pulled out a bottle of beer. Not much left, he would have to go to town soon. A long sigh escaped him, and his shoulders slumped. The people at the Super Save-Mart would laugh at him again.
“What a bunch of assholes,” he muttered.
Wayne upended the bottle and took a long drink. The cold liquid slid down his dry throat, washing away a little tension with every gulp. For one golden Zen moment, he and the bottle were the only things in the world, but then he came up for air. He pushed his hair back, noting that his hairline seemed to be a little further back than the day before.
Mr. Fluffy Britches began to yowl and circle his bowl.
“OK. OK, I’ll share. Lord knows you’ve earned it, being such a good guard dog and all.” Wayne poured some beer into the bowl. The sarcasm was lost on the cat as it lapped the beer contently.
“So, what’s it gonna be tonight? Top Gun or Back to the Future?” Wayne took another drink of beer. The cat didn’t answer, so He slid Top Gun from its cardstock sleeve and popped it in the VCR. He took one more look at the door to ensure it was locked, then kicked off his boots and flopped down in his threadbare recliner.
The cushions embraced his body, and his aches and pains began to fade. His back hurt, but a few more beers would fix that. The bottles piled up and the flickering lights from the television danced across the wall, as he slipped into the world of fighter pilots.
He wished he were a fighter pilot. His call sign could be “Ramrod”. Surely a leather jacket that said “Ramrod” on the back would attract the ladies. God knows, he needed a lady in his life, but the path of the freethinker was a lonely one.
A pounding noise snapped him back to the world of cigarette smoke and dirty socks. His sore back protested as he sprang to his feet. Had they come for him?
The knock came again, louder this time. The front door. But who could it be? Nobody came to visit this late. Hell, nobody came to visit at all. Wayne tiptoed across the room and peeped through the dusty blinds.
A scrawny girl stood outside in the gloom. About seventeen, she had a frizzy blond perm and a too-short miniskirt that made her bony legs look ridiculous. She scratched at her forearm, and shifted from side to side. She didn’t look like a space alien, and was too young to be some kind of government agent.
“Hey! Is there anybody home?” she called.
Wayne stepped back from the window, and wrung his hands. He shouldn’t open the door for a stranger at night, but didn’t want to be responsible for what might happen if he left her out there. He walked to the door, and reached for the latch, but stopped short.
“What do you want?” he called.
“Can I use your phone? My car is broke down, and I need to call my parents.” She sounded nice enough.
Wayne stepped back from the door and circled, scratching his head with both hands. He looked back at Mr. Fluffy Britches, but the cat offered no advice.
“Hello?” her voice came through the door again.
“OK, just a minute.” Chains and bolts rattled as Wayne unfastened the assortment of locks on the door. When the last bolt clicked, he swung the door open.
There was a popping noise and then pain. Wayne’s body went rigid, and he dropped to the floor. Lights danced before his eyes, and he gasped for breath. Then a young man with a mullet and an overbite leaned over him, a taser in his hand.
The girl stepped past the bucktoothed kid, and looked around the room. “This place is disgusting,” she said, wrinkling her freckled nose.
No good bastards, how dare they? He would teach them a thing or two. Wayne tried to get up, but succeeded only in flopping around like a fish.
“Zap him again, CJ,” the girl shouted, spit flying from her mouth.
The pain came again. It lasted longer this time, it seemed like forever. His body twitched stiffly on the floor, and warmth spread around his crotch. Somewhere an animal squealed. Good lord, it was him. Darkness crept in at the edge of his vision, and then it stopped.
“Hey look, he pissed himself.” C.J. pointed at Wayne’s crotch and laughed.
“Tie his hands, and get him away from the door.” The girl leaned over and turned the television off.
C.J. pulled Wayne’s arms behind his back, and the plastic zip tie bit into his flesh as it pulled tight. From his vantage point on the floor, Wayne could see Mr. Fluffy Britches under the couch. At least they didn’t have his cat.
“Hey, look at this cool shotgun.” C.J. picked up the gun, and waved it around as he made shooting noises.
“Dammit C.J. stop screwing around!” the girl said. “You’re like a damn baby.” To emphasize her point she picked up a bottle and threw it across the room.
C.J. ducked, and the bottle shattered against the wall. “Mitsy, you ain’t got to be such a bitch.”
“You know not to test me, C.J.” Mitsy picked up Wayne’s last beer and drained it. “Now get him talking while I look around.”
Mumbling under his breath, C.J. took a dirty steak knife from the sink and leaned down, holding it close to Wayne’s face. “You better talk, or I’m gonna cut you good.” The greasy serrated edge wavered close to his eye.
Wayne tried to sound calm as he spoke, but his voice shook all the same. “Look kid, I don’t know what you want. Tell me, and I’ll get it for you.”
“I ain’t no kid.” C.J. pressed the tip of the knife against Wayne’s cheek. “Tell us where your money is.”
Despite his position, Wayne struggled to suppress a laugh. “Look around, does it look like I have any money to you?”
C.J blinked, and his brows knit together for a moment. He looked around Wayne’s trailer, and then turned toward the girl. “Mitsy, this guy looks poor.”
Wayne flexed his wrist and tried to slip his hands free, but the zip tie was too tight. Maybe they would just leave when they realized how poor he was. But, why weren’t they wearing mask? Why were they using their names so freely in front of him? A cold lump formed in his guts, as grim realization crept over him. They had no intention of leaving a witness.
“Jumping Jesus!” Mitsy said. She stomped across the room, her face red and her fist clinched. “Do I have to do everything?”
C.J. jumped out of the way as she rushed forward and slammed her foot into Wayne’s gut. Sharp pain shot through his side, and he curled into a ball.
“I know you’ve got something, now tell me where it is, or you’re gonna be wearing your ass for a hat!” Without waiting for an answer, she kicked him again.
Wayne wheezed, as he tried to draw breath. He had to get out of this. Of all the ways he thought he might die, being beaten to death in his own trailer was not the way he wanted to go. Mitsy drew back her leg again. Wayne rolled to the side, crying out as the blow hit him in the shoulder.
He turned to look at Mitsy, maybe if he made eye contact she would stop hitting him for a moment. Her foot slammed into his face. His vision blurred, and the metallic taste of blood filled his mouth.
“Stop!” Wayne spit blood onto the cheap linoleum floor. “It’s outside.” Tears ran down his cheeks. “I buried it.” Even as the words came out of his mouth, he realized how stupid they sounded. He braced for the next kick, but it didn’t come.
Mitsy hunched over him. Her eyes bulged in their sockets, and her mouth twitched. “What’s outside?”
“My money,” Wayne said. “I bury it because I don’t trust the bank.” It was half true, Wayne didn’t trust the bank. The Illuminati controlled the banks.
“Hey Mitsy, buried treasure! Cool, huh?” C.J. grinned.
Mitsy scratched at her arm as she stared down at Wayne. “That’s stupid,” she said. She shifted to the side. “It’s so stupid it has to be true. Nobody would make up a lie that retarded. Get him on his feet.”
C.J. handed the shotgun to Mitsy, and pulled Wayne to his feet. Wayne wobbled for a moment, then regained his balance.
“Let’s go,” Mitsy said. “Move your old dusty ass.”
C.J. grabbed a shovel from the pile of tools in the corner, and they marched him outside.
The moon had disappeared behind the clouds, and the junk cars were just dim outlines crouching in the dark. The yellow light spilled from the trailer door twisting Mitsy’s features into a grotesque mask. “OK, show me where. We don’t have all night.”
“This way.” Dew soaked through Wayne’s socks, as he led them back through the derelict cars toward the woodline. Would this be the last walk he ever took? He swallowed. His dry throat felt a size too small, and sweat beaded on his forehead. His knees wobbled as he walked. He tried to blame it on being tased. Maybe if he could get their attention on something else, he could slip away into the shadows.
“There,” Wayne said, as they reached the edge of the forest. “Dig there.”
Mitsy cackled behind him. “You are pretty damn stupid, if you think we’re going to dig while you sit here and watch.”
“Yeah,” C.J. added. “Stupid.”
“Now C.J. is going to cut your hands loose, but you just remember that if you even twitch in a way I don’t like, I’m gonna shoot you a whole bunch of times. You understand?”
C.J. grabbed Wayne’s arm, and the blade of the steak knife scraped against his skin as it sawed through the zip tie. The plastic band popped off, and his fingers tingled, as the feeling came back into them. C.J. kicked the shovel toward him and stepped back.
Mitsy kept the gun trained on him, her finger on the trigger. “Get to diggin’, old man, or I’ll get C.J. to tase you again.”
“Yeah! You don’t want that, do you, piss pants?” C.J. pulled out the taser and jabbed it at him for emphasis.
Wayne picked up the shovel and thrust it into the soft loam. His heart pounded so fast that he wondered if C.J and Mitsy could hear it. As he dug, he wondered what the buckshot would feel like. Would it be a burning pain, or more like the time he cracked a rib. If she shot him in the head, would he feel it at all? His stomach churned. How long would his body lay here before anybody even bothered to look for him? He should have been friendlier with his neighbors. What would happen to Mr. Fluffy Britches? He couldn’t remember the last time he talked to his family. There was so much he needed to do. He couldn’t die like this, shot in his own backyard, his corpse gnawed by the critters.
“You better find something quick.” Mitsy rocked back and forth while she talked, but kept the muzzle of the shotgun pointed at Wayne.
The hole was knee deep now, and he still didn’t have a plan. How long could he keep this up before they realized there was nothing here? He slowed his digging, and the shovel sliding into the dark earth seemed unnaturally loud. The crickets had stopped singing. No dogs barked in the distance, no whippoorwill called in the night. Nothing. A stench like a cross between a wet dog and a skunk crept in from the forest. His skin prickled, and a nagging tingle settled at the base of his skull. Curiosity overcame fear, and he stood upright to look around.
“What the hell are you doing?” C.J. yelled, waving the taser at him.
A loud thump came from behind them, as something heavy landed on the hood of a car. Shadows moved through the forest.
“I … I don’t think we should be here,” Wayne heard the words come out of his mouth, as if somebody else was speaking them.
“Get back to work, old man!” Mitsy stepped forward and aimed at his head.
A shadow detached itself from the tangle of dark pines, and crept toward her.
“What the hell is that?” C.J. yelled, pointing at the dark shape that loomed behind her.
Mitsy shot C.J. an angry look. “Quit screwing around, dumbass! I should —” The shadow growled and the color drained from her face.
She started to turn, but the creature pounced. Mitsy’s boney limbs flailed, as it slammed her into the ground with the shotgun pinned beneath her. She screamed, as its long curved claws tore into her flesh.
Wayne could see it clearly now. It was built like an ape, but a row of long spines stood out from its back like a fish. Its gray mangy looking hide rippled with muscles. White lidless eyes stared out over a mouth that was round like a lamprey’s, with concentric rings of razor teeth.
“Chu … chupcabra,” Wayne stammered.
“Help me!” Mitsy screamed, as the creature sank its sucker mouth into her back with a disgusting smack.
“Get off her you sumbitch!” C.J. charged forward brandishing the taser, but stopped short as a second creature emerged from the shadows.
Wayne’s mind screamed for him to run, but his legs didn’t move.
“Please!” Mitsy screamed. Her hands clawed the dirt as she tried to pull herself from under the creature. It planted one clawed hand on the back of her head, and press it against the ground. Blood trickled down her face as the talons dug into her scalp.
C.J. turned to Wayne and screamed, “Help her, you asshole!”
Wayne stepped forward swinging, the shovel like a bat. The blow caught C.J. in the knee, and he went down squealing.
Wild-eyed, Wayne turned and sprinted back toward the trailer. His heart pounded, as he charged though the junk cars, hoping he wouldn’t trip on something in the dark. Thorns and broken glass tore at his feet, but the pitiful screams reminded him that worse things awaited if he slowed down.
A shadow moved to his right. Large and dark, it made a banging noise as it jumped from car to car. How many were there? Wayne’s battered body screamed in protest, but he redoubled his efforts. He focused on the bare yellow bulb that burned at his back door. C.J. and Mitsy’s screams reached a crescendo, and then fell silent.
Expecting clawed hands to reach out and grab him at any moment, Wayne reached the trailer. He dropped the shovel, dashed through the door, and slammed it behind him. Panting, he leaned against the door and looked around the room. “Mr. Fluffy Britches, where are you?”
The door shuddered as something slammed against it. Wayne shoved back, but his wet socks slipped on the tile floor, and the door creaked inward inch by inch. He braced his bleeding foot against the counter and shoved. Pain shot through his foot, and his determined grunt became a howl.
The door stopped. Every muscle in Wayne’s body screamed from exertion, but the door stopped, leaving a gap not much wider than a man’s arm. The creature thrust its hand through the opening, and felt around on the inside. Wayne strained against the door as the claws scraped against the metal door, closer and closer to his face.
Mr. Fluffy Britches emerged from under the couch, and jumped up onto the counter by the window sill.
The hand withdrew, and the door slammed shut. Wayne slumped against it, trying to catch his breath. A shadow moved past the window, and the cat hissed, its ears pulled back against its skull.
“Mr. Fluffy Britches, get away from that window!” Wayne screamed.
A dark mangy arm crashed through the screen and drug the protesting feline out into the dark.
“No!” Wayne screamed, his voice cracking. “Not Mr. Fluffy Britches!” He grabbed a hatchet and a framing hammer from the pile of tools, and yanked the door open.
“Gimme back my cat!” Red rage welled up inside him, as he charged down the steps.
A massive chupacabra turned to face him, a head taller than the others and wider through the chest. Spittle dripped from its lamprey mouth, and its back spines quivered as it flexed its thick scarred limbs.
“You just fucked up, meat monkey!” Wayne snarled, brandishing his makeshift weapons. “Come get some!”
The chupacabra dropped the cat and charged, as if it understood the challenge. Wayne stepped forward and swung the hammer. He felt the shock in his wrist, as his weapon slammed into the creature’s skull. The chupacabra alpha staggered then lashed out. The claws came within inches of Wayne’s face, as he jerked back. Sidestepping, he swung the hatchet. Its blade bit into the beast’s elbow. The chupacabra shrieked and backed off. It circled, more cautious now, arm dangling at its side.
“Not my cat,” Wayne hissed between clenched teeth. ”Not my Fluffy Britches.”
With a shriek, the beast rushed forward and slammed into Wayne. His weapons flew from his hands. The air whooshed from his lungs as he fell on his back, and the chupacabra pinned him to the ground.
The chupacabra’s claws dug into Wayne’s chest, tracing lines of searing pain in his flesh. He grabbed its fleshy throat and shoved, as the beast bore down on him, pushing its toothy sucker mouth closer to his face. The creature’s breath filled Wayne’s nostrils, and he retched. His arms started to give way, and the lamprey mouth descended. A wet black tongue flicked out leaving a trail of slime across his face. With a primal scream, Wayne bit into the creature’s flabby neck. It jerked back, and he drove his thumb into one of the white soulless eyes. Shrieking, the chupacabra lurched away from him.
Wayne rolled to his feet, and snatched the hammer from the ground. He closed in, as the chupacabra shook blood from its eye and backed away. Gripping the hammer with both hands, he stepped forward and slammed it into the beast head. Its knees buckled, and it dropped to the ground. With all his strength, Wayne swung downward into the thick skull again. There was a cracking sound; blood spattered his face and chest. He rained blow after blow down on the chupacabra’s head until his arms hung limply at his sides and the beast was still.
His hands shook, and his breath came in ragged gasp while he stared down at the creature’s broken body. He swayed from side to side, and looked around.
Mr. Fluffy Britches dashed under the trailer and hid.
The sound of claws on metal drew his attention, and he looked up to see the dark shapes of the other chupacabras gathering around in a rough half circle. He backed toward the trailer, weak kneed, and his body threatened to collapse. This was it. They would rush him before he reached the door. He raised the hammer with trembling hands and coughed, as he steadied himself.
“Com’on then,” he said, his voice low and horse. Tears streaked down his face.
But they didn’t come. One by one they lowered their misshapen heads and backed away into the night.
Wayne didn’t understand, but he didn’t care. He staggered into the trailer, and dropped to his knees. As soon as Mr. Fluffy Britches was inside he pushed the door to and slid the bolt. He rolled onto his back, and stared up at the ceiling. The cool linoleum soothed his aching muscles, and the last of his strength seemed to drain away into the floor.
“Mr Fluffy Britches, are you …”
Exhaustion took him.
When morning came the bodies were gone, and nobody came looking for C.J. and Mitsy. If not for the bruises and throbbing cuts on his chest and arms, the whole thing might have been a dream. But the chupacabras had left a sign that they had been there. A freshly killed raccoon lay on his back steps, laid out as neat as the meat in Super Save-Mart. Was it a gift? A peace offering?
In the days that came, if Wayne saw one of the chupacabras at night, it would lower its head and let him pass, the way a fancy gentleman would bow for a lady. And every morning the same thing, a dead animal carefully placed at the bottom the steps. Possums, rabbits, coons, one time there was even a chihuahua.
Eventually Wayne realized they were tribute, a sign of the new status quo. The Illuminati might control the banks, and the space aliens might rule the night sky, but Wayne Gautreaux walked the piney woods of east Texas without fear. Because he was the king of the chupacabras.
About the Author
J F Pierce lives in a 100 year old farm house in rural Alabama. His wife, daughter and two dogs share his space and tolerate his babbling. His influences range from Bukowski to B movies. At forty he started making a mental list of things he would regret not trying when he was old and writing was at the top of the list.