Little Mean Things
It was a mistake. A monster. A thing that was not one of nature’s special creatures. It had no right to exist in a world of warm sunshine and cold science, of technology and dead gods but which existed despite all of that. In spite of it. It existed.
And it was theirs.
As the three boys stood over their prey the woods moaned, wood grinding on wood, branches joining hands, leaves whispering as a slight breeze stirred from the east. The three didn’t even notice, their quarry run down and bleeding before them, it’s arms reaching out towards the woods, towards its home, trying to crawl towards the safe darkness but one of the boys standing on it’s tail so it cannot move forward. It’s caught. The three boys, smiling silently now, the fat one out of breath, spread slowly out and surrounded the thing that lay on the grass before them and now there would be no escape. The short one, overweight and still breathing heavy, Karl, let out a loud guffawing laugh and approached the thing and kicked a leg out and caught it in its side. It let out a pitiful moan and pulled away, its arms pulling clumps of grass and dirt up as it moved but another kick halted its progress and it lay motionless as Karl moved back into place, still wheezing. The wind again, stronger this time. The thing lifted its head to feel it upon its face, its eyes, all five, closing as the cool spring wind runs across its flesh. Its mouths look as if they are smiling but then Victor, the oldest and tallest of the three moves forward and strikes it with a rusty golf club.
Something in the woods shrieked and Karl laughed again, this time not as loudly, but the smile still on his face.
A sneer on his face, Victor raises the club again and again, dropping it harder and harder onto the thing as the noises get quieter and quieter, the orange fluid coming from a gash in its head getting deeper and deeper. Victor stopped finally, chest heaving and breath coming in short bursts, reaching into his pocket for his inhaler as the monster let out a long, low sigh and brought all four arms around its thin pink frame to cover itself. All four arms, all three thin and wiry and covered in black veins, interwove themselves together so that when it was finished the thing was in a ball, more or less, its two stubby legs the only things that were still outside of the shell, but they were covered in thick scales that would be difficult to pierce without something very sharp. It was safe.
The first two boys looked to the darkness of the woods and from their shadows stepped the last of the three and youngest, Daryl, a blank look on his face as he moved out of the darker shadows, the scar that ran between his lip and nose almost glowing. A light rain began to fall and the wind picked up, howling through the thick trees and pushing Daryl’s long, stringy hair away from his face. It was hard to read his eyes and the other two boys stepped away from him, and the thing, as he approached it. As he was within feet of it his left hand slid out of his pocket and he knelt beside the thing. It was still now but if you listened closely you could hear it making a low mewling sound. Daryl reached his hand out and gently touched the sticky pink skin of the thing’s arm and left it there a moment before starting to slowly stroke it. As soon as he touched it the mewling stopped and the wind picked up slightly and the thing’s body tensed up for another attack but none came. Daryl changed nothing and kept stroking the thing’s skin with his left hand, the other still in his coat pocket. The rain began to fall harder on the four of them and on the woods.
They had found it here, in the O’Leary woods outside of town, just as they knew they would. It was always out here late at night, feeding in a small river that lay about a half mile into the woods and in an area where the boys had never known there even was a river. It would slip out of the darkness of the trees and splash around in the water until it caught something that to the boys looked like a spider, only one that lived underwater, and then it would place the meal into the middle of the three mouths and would climb quickly back into the trees again to be lost in the darkness. Victor’s brother had first seen it here just before winter, when he and their dad had been in the woods hunting. They had shot a doe and were tracking its blood trail but just when they thought they had finally tracked her down the blood disappeared into thin air. They spun around, searching every direction for a clue but found none. It had vanished. Then above them they heard the snap of a branch and looked up in time to see a small pink thing with many arms and short, powerful legs climbing high into the tree they stood beneath, the doe held tightly by its throat in one of its hands. A few drops of blood fell onto the two men’s up-turned faces but in another moment both were lost in the tree. Neither had spoken of what they had seen as they made their way back to the truck and neither had said another word of it to anyone until Victor’s brother had come home drunk not a month ago and had told Victor all about what he and his father had seen and how he still saw the thing whenever he went to sleep. Slightly more than curious, Victor and his friends had then begun staking out the woods where they approximated Victor’s brother and dad had been and within a week they had seen it, fishing alone late at night. They had no idea what it was and not once did they set to words any theories. All they knew was that it shouldn’t be there. It had no right to exist. And they were going to kill it. God only knew what something like that thing could do to a man, or worse, a child, if it turned its mind to such a thing. So they waited and waited and waited this night, all three of them standing silently in the spreading darkness for three hours before it showed itself and then waiting another hour before they began to close in on it. And now…
Daryl stroked the thing’s skin and slowly, so so slowly, the thing’s arms loosened inch by inch, and still the boy stroked its skin. As it loosened its arms Victor and Karl moved closer, slowly, moving as slowly and quietly as they could so as not to disturb what Daryl was doing. And after ten minutes, the thing’s arms pulled away and folded back to its sides and Daryl rolled the thing over so it faced him, doing this one-handed and very gently. It was a hideous thing. Its face all eyes and mouths, five of the former and three of the latter, and all of them open wide. Daryl smiled then down at the thing and brought his hand up to its face and at first it flinched but then as he stroked its sticky skin its eyes closed to slits and its one of its own arms raised to touch Daryl. Just as its hand was about to make contact with Daryl’s skin though Daryl pulled his right hand free and in it was a dull butter knife which he brought down and buried in one of the thing’s eyes. It let out a shriek that pierced the ears of the boys but it didn’t halt Daryl, who pulled the knife out and plunged it again and again into the thing’s face, even as it flailed against him weakly with its arms. Two of the arms shot up and wrapped around Daryl’s throat and his eyes bugged out as the breath was strangled from his body and the world began to go black. Victor and Karl ran forward and kicked the thing, now blind and bleeding profusely, in its head and when it released Daryl they stood on its arms and kept it pinned as Daryl went back to his work, forcing the knife deeply into the creature’s body then tearing it out, its cries getting quieter and quieter with each successive blow until finally it was silent and the only sound was that of Daryl’s grunting and the steadily increasing wind. And finally it was done.
It was done.
Daryl looked down at the pitiful beast, its body shredded, nothing more than pulp now, and then he stood up, dropping the knife as he did. Victor smiled broadly and punched Daryl in the arm but the smile died on Victor’s lips as he saw the other boy’s face and its grim demeanor. Daryl turned then and began the long walk back to their homes, knowing that they’d all be in trouble when their folks found out they had been out this late on a school night. In a moment Daryl was lost in the darkness. Karl and Victor looked at each other and then into the darkness of the woods and as something moved behind the veil of trees they turned and ran as fast as they could to catch up with Daryl and to get away from this place. The wind became a gale and the rain pounded the earth, soaking it and washing the creature’s blood back into the earth. Something dark reached its long black arms out from the gloom of the woods and took hold of the thing and pulled it back into the embrace of the trees and suddenly the wind died and the rain ended and it was over.
But up in the darkest places of the trees something awoke and moved towards the world of Man.