Animal Man

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


Meet Grant. Your ordinary truck driver who just wants to earn a living. But when he comes face to face with a white tailed deer in the middle of Minnesota, Grant's life is forever changed. Humanity
drains out of one ear as animalistic insanity seeps through the other. Find out what Grant will do to calm the pounding in his head and the ringing in his ears. And will he ever rid himself of the
gnawing hunger growing deeper and deeper in his stomach.

Submitted: June 08, 2018

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Submitted: June 08, 2018

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Animal Man

Thirteen dollars and eighteen cents. That’s how much Amazon truck drivers made per hour. Grant Richards was $13. 80 cents richer every hour. And, to add, each hour proved to teach him something new. He learned to resist the urge of flicking off cars who passed him, learned that fatigue came with the job and the drooping bags under his eyes were unavoidable, learned to focus on the bumper ahead when his vision blurred from boredom, learned that boredom also made the job description, learned that the damn radio broadcasters pitched the same damn jokes every other hour and just recycled the same music playlist, learned that hours felt like years and it was best to ignore glancing at the dashboard. He learned a new definition loneliness. All this he learned in 14 years and over 100,000 hours of truck driving.

But, Grant failed to learn one essential trucker-tip: how to hold his bladder. An issue that caused Grant unbearable discomfort and a newfound appreciation of roadsides.  Occasionally, when the bladder filled beyond its breaking point without previous warning,nice here! like a wolf hunched back waiting to pounce on its oblivious prey, he swerved to the side and proceeded to water the weeds.

So, as if on cue, the sly wolf pounced on an unexpected Grant at 4 am in the morning on his way to Allati-ember, Minnesota. Obeying the urge, Grant slowly veered to the left and off the blacktop. When he hopped down, instead of the usual ‘stop n drop’ tactic, Grant gravitated towards the dense woods ahead. Whether it was the sharp pine scent that enticed him or the calming visage, it somehow took hold of Grant and swept him in. He trudged through the brush and aimed for an already dark spot on a nearby trunk, gradually feeling that soothing sensation of releasing a pent up waterfall.

He glanced at his watch, 4:09. Ahead of time. Two more hours only to turn around and head home. He decided to stall. Spending numerous minutes in a cramped space alone forced Grant to think, not that he wanted to, but because there was nothing else to do. All Grant wanted was a few minutes of not thinking, of blissful ignorance. And he almost got it.

As Grant bent to snatch a leaf to clean up, he heard a rustling behind him. Snapping his head towards the sound, Grant came face to face with a white tailed deer. It was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen or been so close to. If he had dared, he could’ve reached out and grazed his fingers over her glossy fur. He wanted to, and all of a sudden he wished this moment would be his last. The doe held herself up as if she were royalty, gentle yet unexplainably powerful. Her milk chocolate coat stretched tightly over her bones, outlining every tense muscle and curve. But it was her eyes that mesmerized Grant. Black, with no shine or tint, just an immense blackness. Once Grant made contact with those black pits, the world vanished. He and the doe remained, eye to eye. And suddenly, Grant felt everything the doe felt. It was as if the humanity within Grant drained out of one ear and the doe’s reality seeped through the other.  His hands were no longer his hands, they were sharp, naked hooves that touched the damp soil underneath. His eyes, the endless black that moved twice as fast as humanly possible. Grant was no longer Grant, he was the doe. Then, darkness.

----------------

It wasn’t the scorching burn of the metal against his bare back that awoke him, it was the maddening dull vibration of the truck’s motor that resonated throughout his entire body. What the hell happened, Grant thought, Where’s my shirt. His ears pulsed and head pounded as all he could hear was the engine rumbling on and on and on. The forest itself seemed to be growing then shrinking, thumping along with the pitches of the rumbling. Branches and weeds appeared to be reaching out, slithered so close, to then retreat before it could grab Grant and drag him in. He needed to stop the rumbling, he needed to yank the keys out of the ignition and chuck them so that the deafening sound ended before he lost his mind.

Nothing made sense to him--why was he half-naked and slumped against the truck, sweat dripping from every possible pore-- but stopping that sound seemed like a good start. Jolting up, Grant felt as if his arms and legs belonged to someone else, they hung limply at his sides without any response to what his mind was telling them. What the hell is wrong with me? When he moved, it felt like wading through water--the harder he tried to quicken his pace, the more backlash and weight added to his feet. Finally, he climbed up to his seat and twisted the keys, killing the motor.

He looked at his watch. Little hand on the five, big hand barely to the right of the twelve: 5:01.

-------------

Dehydration. That’s what Grant blamed the black out for. Dehydration. He remembered the darker than usual golden tint of his pee back in the woods, right? Yes, it was dehydration. It explains why his shirt was off too; he must’ve suffered from heat exposure and stumbled towards the truck, hoping to drive to the nearest gas station for water while tearing the sweat-soaked Amazon t-shirt from his swelling body, to then collapse against the truck.

But dehydration didn’t explain the feeling Grant had, as if someone had ripped his feet and hands from his body and swapped them with some other person’s. They held the weight of an elephant and the unfamiliarity of a foreign language.  His body was utterly clumsy, not that he had been a ballerina beforehand, but now it felt as if ropes were slung around his waist and neck, digging into his flesh, itchy and uncomfortable, playing games on him. The tightness would be unbearable until it gave way the slightest to then abruptly tightening and tugging again.  Tight then not then tight again.

He slid into the driver seat and gripped the steering wheel with his meaty hands, not quite sure if he wanted to step on the gas. His foot decided for him and the truck crawled forward, the engine groaning and gas fumes exploding with that acidic and aching smell. Grant straightened the wheel, stared straight ahead and crept down the highway, barely paying attention to any of his surroundings.

And that’s why he failed to notice the deer. Her sleek brown coat camouflaged against the damp darkness of the foliage, peering out of the woods with those black, endless eyes stalking Grant’s departure. She seemed to smile, but not as a friendly farewell. The one corner creased higher than the other while the lips strained themselves over the teeth, like a painted clown’s smile, rigid and crazed. As soon as Grant’s truck slumbered by, the deer vanished as quickly as it came, leaving Grant with nothing but the unshakeable sensation of insanity and the dashboard blinking 5:12.

---------------

“That’ll be 13 bucks,” the gas station worker said with a stupid grin that folded his chin into three sections of pure fat. Grant handed the pudgy yet buoyant man--his name was Larry according to the “Hi, My name is” tag pressed across his not-so manly, fleshy breast--three fives.

“Out of 15...wan’ the change?” he said as his puny, dirt colored eyes shifted nervously, avoiding direct contact with Grant’s eyes.

“Uh, no, I’m good,” Grant said. At this point, Grant cared only for ridding himself of this uneasy feeling than lending this desperate man two bucks.

“Oh hey, you listn’ to Hall and Oates?” Larry said, acknowledging Grant’s trucker hat--which he had bought in Pennsylvania at a thrift store to protect his expansive forehead from sunburn--and clutching onto the possible chance of conversation. “I've gotta CD over her’, it covers all the essentials from She’s Gone to Maneater.”

Grant scooped up the bottled water, the Snickers bar, and the Advil from the counter saying “Um, sure I've heard a couple songs…”

“See I knew it! The momen’ you strolled n’, I knew. Itsa gift of sorts: I c’n tell wh’n a certain depress’d someon’ needn’ a lil’ Hall n’ Oates to clear the min’. Heck, I've had coupl’ of those times mys’lf.”

He would’ve bet money against those latter words. Surely the lonesome man had more than just a couple of hard times in his back pocket, but Grant, even though polite manners told him otherwise, knew that if he engaged in conversation with this man, he’d be here the rest of the morning watching Larry’s neck and chin fat bounce up and down to the cadence of his high-pitched, nasally voice. But as soon as Grant’s reply escaped, Larry was already waddling around the counter, shoes screaming with all that baggage on top. Only a fool would've tried to stop such a mounting force. And that fool today was Grant, whose conscience seemed to be absent and some new, wild control system present.

“Lemme go grab a C----” Larry begin saying until Grant drew his arm straight forward, like a crossing guard preventing oncoming traffic, while Larry crashed mid-step, not noticing the sudden effort by Grant.  Grant’s palm barely made an indentation in the flub surrounding Larry’s chest, but instead, Larry fluidly bounced back, ripples forming around his stomach.

“Oooff. Sorry sir! Didn't see ya ther’” Larry retorted, knowing the collision was not an accident, but choosing to ignore it. “Imma just go n’”

“I’ve really got to go. Uh the truck,” Grant said as he glanced towards the truck, pleading Larry to just move aside and let him leave.

“No no sir! I have a gift I tell ya n’ ya needn’ some Hall n’ Oa---”

“SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP AND MOVE,” Grant exploded, spit flying. He didn't know what came over him, he felt as if steam fumed out of his ears. “Uh, I mean just please move I’m fine.”

More conflicted than ever, Grant shoved past the dumbfounded Larry. Instead of heading to the truck, he rounded the corner and slid down against the fading white brick wall, flakes of paint rubbing off on him. Not bothering to brush them off, Grant shut his eyes and massaged his temples. He was dripping with sweat. The salty taste of it perched above his lips, glistening against the sun, and Grant twisted the cap off of the water, chugging it within seconds. It only made him more thirsty. Maybe I need to eat, yes I’m just hungry that’s all. His convincing failed when he repeated the ravage devouring of his Snickers Bar and his stomach growled afterwards evermore furiously.

The pavement he sat on was cracked and beaten, surrendering to the weeds that protruded from every split.  An uneasy anger washed over Grant. He couldn’t explain what was happening and he couldn’t fix it. He was desperately hungry. Hands shaking, he began tearing the weeds apart from every crack, nails digging into the dirt then uprooting the deepest weeds with such anger it scared him. His eyes started sweating, or crying he couldn’t tell, and he stood up slowly, knuckles white from still clutching the weeds and dirt in his hands. Squeezing his eyes shut to resist the tears, Grant opened his mouth to its widest, preparing to scream or shout or pound his fists against the wall, something to release this unfamiliar fury.

But then, darkness swallowed him and, while Grant tentatively released both the tension in his hands and eyes, he saw him.  Posed with the strength of the deer, but no aura of gentleness, a jet black wolf crouched in a stance ready to attack. His shoulders resembled pointed knives, so sharp they could cut, and his hind legs were angled with powerful speed. His chest intensely rose out then in as if shortly beforehand completing a marathon, but no sign of weakness showed. Lips curled with teething fangs and a jagged, blood-dried scar ran from snout to just under the left eye. With his conscience screaming against its will, Grant began walking toward the wolf, hand extended. His eyes were drawn to the wolf’s revengeful green eyes, which were focusing on something in the distance. Grant greedily wanted to capture the wolf, wanted his power, his strength. Crouching down to the wolf’s level, Grant stared nose to nose. Finally the wolf locked eyes with him and, as if a typhoon wave slammed into him, Grant stumbled backwards.

The wolf’s black pupils swelled to the same endless pits of the deer and Grant’s whole body started shaking. Again, he felt everything the wolf felt, but on another level. He was starving like the wolf, breath heaving in and out, steaming in front of him with the heat and scent of pure insanity. Every muscle gained the power and agility of the wolf and Grant’s eyes, his originally grey dull eyes, sized to the black holes. Whipping his head back and forth while reveling in the distinct smells surrounding him, which sensed fear as well as food, Grant became the wolf. Then he smelled it, fat and desperation--a perfect meal. Larry.

------------

He inhaled deeply, imaging the tenderness of Larry’s fat paired with the slightest crunch of bones against his teeth, slithering down his throat and coating his stomach with the thickness of red, hot blood. Ugh, how satisfying tearing apart each limb would be and Grant decided to devour each bite with proper etiquette and organized slaughter.

Larry, who had plopped in his swivel chair behind the counter after his brief—and not as he had anticipated—encounter with Grant, had drowned himself with Twinkies and a well-needed record of Hall and Oates.

“Not such a good day eh Judy?” he said through stuffing his fifth Twinkie into his mouth. He knew he was fat, but eating hadn’t always resulted from loneliness or depression. Eating used to be cookouts or taco tuesday, but as Larry grew up, kids made fun of his dorky excitement over theater and music, so he turned to food as a friend. Now not only did he turn to food for company, but also Judy. Judy from Playboy, the criticized issue which presented a clothed, overweight girl on the front cover. But to Larry, Judy went far beyond perfection. Brown curls snugged her round face, highlighting that shining smile. The smile that could make Larry’s day ten times better.

And it was at this time--6:26-- that Larry, admiring Judy’s comforting eyes while blissfully munching on another Twinkie, that he heard the bell jangle above the door and Grant reenter the station. Snapped from his daze, Larry perked up, hopeful for an apology or another shot at real company. But as soon as Larry laid eyes on Grant, something eerie filled the room. His earlier shrimpy and tired stature was replaced by a hunched, heavy breathing stance. His hair, originally peeking from underneath his brimmed hat, now stuck matted against his sweaty forehead, covering his eyes, the hat absent. And his once drained eyes were now widened in a crazed, distant way, lasering Larry.

“Woah, you d-d-don't look s-so good bud,” Larry stuttered, backing into the counter grasping the photo of Judy. The clock now read 6:27. “Can I h-help ya with, w-with anythin’? Maybe som’ food err...uh, som’ Twinkies,” Larry lifted his Twinkie between him and Grant, utilizing it as a shield, “I c’n get ya som’thin’ fer---”

“Gerrph, shut up” Grant seethed, “you’re so much better when you don't talk and just shut that fat-ass trap of yours.” Grant’s voice had lowered to a growling, curt tone. Creeping forward, Grant clenched and unclenched his hands while his tongue flicked in and out in twitching motions. 6:28. “Mmhhhh, that Twinkie will be the perfect cherry on top to your soft fat and delicate bones.”

Larry quivered, “Uh b-buddy your’e a scarin’ me”

Grant’s smile wrinkled to its farthest corners and his eyes gleamed as he stalked forward. 6:29. For each step Grant took, Larry stumbled backwards until he knocked into the glass cooler and dropped his Twinkie. 6:30. “Please,” Larry said. But then Grant charged, mouth as wide as a canyon and eyes pulsing. 6:31. The scream was muffled by the tearing and ripping. 6:32. Blood smeared the glass. 6:33. And Larry, innocent and lonely Larry, was no more. His last sight, Judy falling from the counter and crashing into the ground, shattering into a million pieces. 6:34.

And for once that day, Grant felt better. Felt stronger. Felt satisfied. Felt invincible. The earlier pounding headache subsided and the sweat which cooled created a thick, snake-like layer plastered to his skin. He licked each finger clean from Larry’s tangy blood and cackled at the sight of his limp body on the ground. Stooping down, Grant grabbed the fallen Twinkie and, on second thought, tore the “Hi my name is Larry” tag off from his shredded, bloody chest and carefully folded it, shoving it into his pocket. With one last look at his successful kill, Grant strut pass the counter and left the gas station. And as he went through the door, it was 6:39 and Daryl Hall’s voice faded from behind…

Watch out boy she'll chew you up

(Oh here she comes)

She's a maneater”

--------------

Two Years Later…

“Dude, I’ve really gots to piss. C’mon just pull over for one second!” Slimmy said. His real name was Jim and his parents wanted it to be Jimmy, but due to his scrawny build, it was coined Slimmy by most of his friends and he quite liked it. Said it was unique, would draw the ladies to him.

“Can’t you just hold it for like one more hour?” Trevor said. He and Slimmy were like brothers, the tightest in their friend group. They had met freshmen year when Trevor opened his dorm room for the first time and ol’ Slimmy was plopped there on his waterbed, struggling to connect his rotating disco ball into the outlet. He remembered how Slimmy had immediately wiped the surprised expression off Trevor’s face by saying, “Well are you just gonna stand there like a brick wall or come help get this place ready for our first party?”

No one understood how they were friends, they were complete opposites, but they rarely separated. Trevor--or what Slimmy shortened to Trev--was tall and thick, at least six foot, and was known to be the responsible, quiet one. While Slimmy was, well, slim and the life of the party--or so he liked to think. But they both were undeniably loyal and now partners in their advertising company, where Slimmy ruled the creative side and Trev took care of the paperwork. So naturally they were on their way back from a meeting in St. Paul, but had veered off course.

“God, Slimmy, I don’t even know where the hell we are. And I’m running outta gas….we need to make it to the next station to get a map, so just don’t think about it.”

“Uh-hmm, whatever ya say Hot-Shot. Just know that if I leak all over your car, it ain’t my fault. And who uses maps these days--uh, wait there’s a place up ahead!”

Trevor hadn’t noticed it. It was tucked behind monstrous trees that seemed to purposely cover the sign, which was barely legible itself. Scribbled across it in faded letters was “Stop n Shop” with a man’s plump face smiling as if he was the richest man alive.

“Heh, what a name. Pull over or imma bout to explode, n’ you can get your damn map.” Slimmy said while unbuckling his seat belt.

Pulling in, something uneasy washed over Trevor. Something was off about this place. The white paint barely clung to the brick and the lights flickered inside. “Eh, I don’t know about this place Slim.”

“Psh, its fine! Just a lil run-down, plus I didn’t see any gas station closer? Oof, imma go now,” Slimmy said, hopping out of the car and practically sprinting to the bathroom sign that pointed to the back of the building.

“Yea, stop bein a baby, there’s nothin wrong with this place,” Trevor told himself. As he walked towards the door though, he realized how the weeds poked from every crack and dust coated the door handle when he grabbed it. Slowly, he opened the door and walked in. The light dimly flickered over the ugly, tiled floor. A stale, putrid scent of something dead hit Trevor. Upon entering, Trevor’s ears had been pounding blood, matching his hearts racing beat, so he could barely hear himself breathing. Bmmmmm, Bmmmm, Bmmmm. Then silence. His ears stopped ringing and suddenly he heard music. But it wasn’t exactly music. It sounded like a broken record, repeating a barely audible “Oh, oh here she comes.” Trevor rounded the corner, trying to find the owner, and abruptly stood stock-still. He almost threw up, no he almost started crying. He wanted to run, run far away and never ever come back. He wanted Slimmy to pop out with a gleeful “Got ya!” But none of that happened. Instead Trevor stared at the half-bones, half shredded body laying in front of him. The dried, dark red blood cloaked the floor and glass behind it. Chunks of flesh scattered the floor, teeth marks noting the indentations in the breakage. But the worst part was the man’s eyes which still seemed to be wet with tears. They screamed help and shouted fear. Trevor swore he saw the eyes following him, pleading with him, as he backed away.

Booomph! Trevor’s head whipped to the door, what was that noise? It awakened him from his daymare and he stumbled out the door. “Slimmy,” his voice croaked, “SLIMMYYY!” Running to the back, Trevor was once again jolted into stillness. What he saw now may have been more terrifying than the motionless, decaying man in the station. The door to the bathroom was flung open and Slimmy, arms tight to his sides, knuckles white and clammy with his mouth slightly ajar, stood there. “Slim--” Trevor began to say but was cut off by Slimmy’s eyes. Gradually, his black pupils grew and grew to the point where no white could be seen, and this intense blackness stared blankly at Trevor. No, not at Trevor, past him. Almost in slow motion, Trevor turned around to see what Slimmy was staring at. When his eyes adjusted to the glaring sunlight peeking over the trees, a man came to view. The dirt in his hair made it black and it was matted flat against his forehead with sweat. His eyes, also the immense black of Slimmy’s, curved in a manicked sort of way. Head tilted to one side, he smiled at Trevor. His teeth were stained red, yellow the background color, and his tongue flicked in and out in a reptilian way. “6:39...dinner time,” the man growled. Trevor put one foot back, ready to make a run for it, when his eyes met the man’s. Trevor’s head pounded, ears rang, hands and feet swelled, sweat dripped from his temples, a sharp hand clasped his heart shooting pain through every muscle, and an overwhelming volume of “SHE”S A MANEATER” blared...

And then blackness.

The End

 


© Copyright 2018 Rebecca G. All rights reserved.

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