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Feral Farms

"There's a beast on the loose. Are you a hunter, or the hunted?"

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The horse was in shock. It didn’t know what had happened to it as it could not comprehend just what was going on, and the farmer to whom it belonged, could only stare with a similar level of incomprehension. Standing at the gate, as ‘Bessie’ a retired Haflinger horse, lay on her side in watery mud in the corner of a field, her legs cycling slowly, head moving around, eyes blinking, her heart pumping its last as it lay somewhere in the muddy, bloody water amongst the innards that had been ripped from her stomach. Blood and entrails were strewn in the murky water.

Bessie soon stopped blinking and stopped moving. She was dead, and farmer Mostyn guessed what had happened. She was a victim of a rumour. He had heard of other animals being killed and eaten. Although not really eaten. More attacked and torn open, partially feasted upon. He had heard that some other animals in the local area had been attacked, but it was simply hearsay. Maybe a sheep had been mauled by a fox. Or a cat had attacked a chicken.

There’s a creature out there, he had heard someone say in his local tavern, but it was the kind of statement that provokes barely a response. In one ear and out the other, probably not even believed by the one who said it.

Yet, here was Bessie, ripped open, and the ragged skin of the stomach looked like it had claw marks. This ‘beast’ was feral, vicious, and real.

The other farmers in the community would need to be reminded and would need to take it seriously, not just dismiss it as a cat or fox.

They would need to protect their stock, as it seemed there really was a creature out there, and a creature that was probably nearby as well, as this must have happened very recently. So whatever was responsible was probably satiated for now, but could very well be too close for comfort. There were trees and bushes not too far away, maybe hiding it, a beast that may well be watching him.

It was this thought that had him turning and making haste back to the farmhouse. He would need to convene a meeting of the local farmers and tell them that it seemed the rumour was true. There seemed to be a wolf or some such creature feasting on farm animals, and it needed to be stopped now.

Perhaps a hunting party could be gathered and the fields roamed until they caught it.

When he reached the farmhouse, his wife was putting the receiver down on their landline telephone.

“Bessie,” he said, “Bessie’s been attacked by some…creature.”

“Bessie!” said his wife of thirty-one years who had introduced him to the farming life.

“Poor thing, she… I was just back from the hen house and there was a message on the phone. Farmer Terry had left a message for you. He said three of his sheep had been attacked and eaten. One’s head had come off.”

“We need a meeting now, as soon as possible. We need to decide how we’re going to deal with this.”

“Well, you organise that, and I’ll go and ready the guns.”


Deep in the English South-East rural landscape, five large farms, each specialising in arable, market, and dairy to differing degrees were embedded on either side of a stream that cut through their middle, where livestock would drink.

In the centre of these farms was a small village, the middle of which held a tavern, ‘The farmer’s twin barrels’, with a swinging sign that didn’t creak in the wind with a crudely painted picture of a farmer pointing a shotgun at the viewer.


It took longer than expected, but ringing around to the other farms finally produced a meeting that night at the tavern. Farmer Wallis was sceptical.

‘It’s nothing. Probably just a dog. No need for panic.’

Wallis was the kind to believe in nothing unless it slapped him in the face. Even then he would probably think it was a magic trick.

Still, although they all got together once a week in the tavern to talk and moan and play darts and watch sports, along with their respective other halves, some of their friends and staff, they would effectively invade the place on a Friday night and have a good ‘ol raucus time, especially with the juke-box blaring out.

Tonight, however, they were not there for a knees-up, or to discuss the state of the farming community. Wallis was convinced to turn up because any excuse to down pints of bitter was alright with him.

Mostyn decided to exert caution because the farmhands didn’t seem aware of any danger, but he decided to let them go early today.

One of them questioned why Josie, Mostyn’s wife was walking out into the field with a shotgun. He waffled an excuse about not knowing, and he’ll see him in the morning. He and Josie will complete everything else that needed doing.

Following Josie, and making a detour to grab another shotgun, he surveyed nonchalant looking cattle, grazing out in the field, the type that looked like that even if there was a fox or a bear heading towards them, they wouldn’t bat an eyelid and carry on grazing. ‘Couldn’t-give-a-fuck’ cattle.

“Could be anywhere,” said Josie, almost itching to use the gun. Mostyn nodded.

“Alright, let’s get back. I’ve let all the staff go for the rest of the day.” As they walked along the fence, they came across a dead cow. Torn apart.


So they wound up the jobs that needed doing. Checking food stocks, milking the dairy cows and handling the collection of milk for distribution, feeding and watering all the animals that needed it, handling phone calls and finances before they had a small quiet meal, both with the same thing playing on their minds:

‘It’s probably just… it’s nothing… it’ll blow over… whatever it is will move on soon… maybe we’ll never know… nope, it’s a fucking beast feeding on the animals.’


That evening in the back of the tavern, in a room usually reserved for a ‘knit and natter’ group, and bridge club, Farmers Mostyn, Wallis, Tierney, Terry, and Linus, sat around the biggest table with their respective alcoholic beverages.

“…but I have to say I believe you Mostyn,” said Linus, “it ripped apart one of my cows and ate some of my ducks.”

“Duck,” said Terry, “lovely with mashed potatoes and onion.” They all laughed except Linus who took out his mobile phone.

“I saw this in the distance. I think I might have captured it on film.” He played the video several times as he passed the phone around.

It was fairly shaky, taken from his farmhouse front window, and showed that beyond the yard that was also a car park with one crimson alizarin Audi in it, there was a fence beyond which was grazing Suffolk and Dorper breeds of sheep, and in the distance near a tree line there was a moving dark shape slinking by the tree trunks, before it leapt on a sheep, and there was a flurry of black and white.

The other sheep instantly panicked and scattered in all directions. Several managed to leap the fence into the car park, and the animal that had been attacked was flung, spinning into the air, and the shape ran away back into the woods.

“See,” said Linus, “it’s a creature of some sort. A wolf?”

“The video’s shite,” said Wallis. “Why, even with all the technology we have these days, is footage of mysterious things usually shit. UFOs are just blurry shapes flying off. Creatures are always specks in the distance, and I don’t even know why people try and film ghosts. First off ghosts aren’t real, and neither are UFOs, and that, this fucking creature, is just a big moggy, nothing more. I mean, what else could it be?”

“There’s got to be something else,” said Terry. “Cats don’t rip open horses.”

“So what does? Could be a wolf.”

“No,” said Linus, “There’s no wolves in England.”

“Some sort of rabid dog,” said Tierney.


The drinks flowed and the conversation continued, speculating about what it could not be and what to do about it. They would need some kind of hunting party and maybe lay a trap, and as the alcohol consumed their conversation, Tierney mentioned one creature that had the rest of them silent for a few moments. Even sceptical Wallis thought that maybe, just maybe, there might be something in it.

‘It’s a crocodile,’ Tierney had said. ‘Think about it. A stream cuts through all of our farms, and I’ve heard stories about kids getting little ones as pets, because you know, stupid parents buy them, don’t they? but then they get flushed down the toilet, or probably taken to a lake or a stream. That could be someone’s pet crocodile, grown up.”

“And now it’s got a fucking banquet of animals to feast on,” said Terry, as he ordered more drinks from the table service.

Their farmhouses were all in walking distance, but Tierney wasn’t as seasoned in taking his alcohol as the rest of them, and staggered his way home, as he had done plenty of times before, and collapsed onto his sofa where he had slept countless times, mostly because his wife had ordered him there.

He, like Mostyn, owned a dairy farm, and ran it with his wife of eighteen years and their two sons who had never left the nest and instead simply blended into the farm life because it was all they knew. They never had any desire to spread their wings and leave for pastures new, settled as they were.

In the morning, when a hangover merged into sobriety, one thought remained from last night.


It still made sense, at least to him. What to do. He remembered also that last night, they talked and talked about what to do about it. We should do this, and we should do that, but in the cold light of day, with the wisdom of alcohol infused minds behind them, nothing much would probably be done.

Things would proceed as normal because it was simply an animal obeying its natural urge to feed.

Another round of phone calls to the others reinforced his reasonings, and they decided to exert caution and carry around with them shotguns. They would tell their workers who would then choose as to whether to continue working whilst there was a creature on the loose. Everybody was to be on high alert, and the second they saw the probable crocodile they were to sound the alarm. Everybody was to have a switched on mobile phone, and go about their business as normal, and if possible, maybe steer clear of the stream.

At midday, he received a panicking call from Linus.

“My sheep. Some of my sheep have had their heads ripped off. I heard them scream. Ever heard a sheep scream? It’s horrible. I came round the corner and there was one of them, still standing, no fucking head. Then it collapsed. I saw bushes move just behind it. Whatever had done it ran but I never saw it. It’s doing it on purpose. It’s not feeding. It seems like whatever it’s doing is doing it for fun.”

“Fuck,” said Tierney. He tried to calm Linus down as best he could, and mainly succeeded, but one more dead animal and he was calling the police, or he was getting reinforcements from somewhere to go tooled up and hunt this thing down.

By the time he had thought of it, it was too late. Tierney should have closed the farm to the public as his farm had a shop and various activities for people. At the moment there were baby chicks in the hen house and children could come in and hold them. There were also pony rides and they could also feed some animals and watch sheep being sheared.

Not that there were many public that did visit. Some days nobody came. Some days there would be several families with excitable children. Most people in the village had been to the farms, but vehicles from the nearby roads would drive into the village because they saw there was a farm where you could feed the animals, buy fresh produce and do all manner of things the owners and farmhands could dream up to entertain the public.

There was a family of five with two young girls and a young boy and they were at the granary with a volunteer getting seeds to feed the chicks with. Tierney hoped that the farmhands had enough sense not to display the shotguns they were wielding as they went about their duties. The farm only held four guns, and he wondered if they should buy in more until this creature was discovered and dealt with.

It was the day that those on community service were due in. They were basically the sweepers. The ones who ‘mucked out’ the pens and replaced the straw and did all the menial work nobody else wanted to do. Not when there were offenders who basically had to do it in the hours they had to serve.

They would know where to get different types of weapons, he thought, and they would love nothing more than to go hunting for a crocodile, he supposed. Beats cleaning out the pig pens and the chicken coups any day of the week.

Handing criminals guns though, may not be such a good idea.

Tierney was on his laptop working out the finances regarding his cows, as on the weekend it was the monthly cattle market at Terry’s place, and he guessed if they hadn’t caught the creature by then, it was in for a feast, a banquet of flesh. Perhaps it would have to be cancelled.

As he was working out his sums, he heard distant screams.



He leapt up and was out into the car park quick as his aging bones would allow, only to see the family heading his way, marching towards him, the children walk-running behind, the mother trying to placate them as they cried. The father, red-faced stormed at Tierney.

“BloodydisgraceIdidn’tthinkyoudidthatmykidsaretraumatisedtheyshouldn’tseethingslikethatIthoughtyoukilledthepigssomewhereelseifI’dhaveknownthisiwouldn’t…” he needed to breathe.

Tierney quickly spoke, “What’s happened? What’s wrong?”

“The pigs. You slaughter the pigs here?”

“No we don’t,” and Tierney walked quickly towards the pig pens, the man following behind trying to berate him, but being ignored until they reached what was effectively a slaughterhouse.

All twelve pigs in their respective pens had been ripped apart and thrown around. The walls oozed with blood and viscera. Innards were strung over the metal pens and dripped crimson.

“Oh fuck!” said Tierney.

“Language,” said the mother, covering one of the girl’s ears, “and why has that man over there got a shotgun?”

“A shotgun?” said the father, looking at the farmhand slowly patrolling near a paddock.

“Right that’s it,” he said, “we’re not coming here again,” and he pointed an angry finger at Tierney.

“You won’t hear the last of this,” he warned, “I’ll be writing a very, very stern letter to my solicitor.” The family all stormed away, the children effectively running behind them.

Tierney looked back at the carnage. “Fuck,” he repeated.

Another farmhand without a shotgun looked at him as he passed by, his curious face asking an unspoken question.

“We need to close the farm,” Tierney said.


The farm was closed, but not before the five on community service had arrived. Tierney convened a meeting of everybody and had to lay it all out. Instead of mucking out the pens and stables, they could take the guns and effectively patrol the stream, looking out for a crocodile. The one without the shotgun opted to patrol the stream anyway with the others because he didn’t believe there was a crocodile. Some of the farmhands took tools to use as weaponry and patrolled the grounds. Some went home and chose not to come back until this was dealt with. It was only a matter of time before it killed a person.

He went back into the farmhouse and picked up the telephone. He rang farmer Wallis.

“Wallis,” he said, “we have to cancel the cattle market and shut all the farms down.”


Wallis listened, but his sceptical mind still insisted on caution. Okay, so it was probably a crocodile, and even if there were several of them, they could be dealt with. Call the police and they would notify the appropriate people who could come down and capture or kill them. Cancelling the cattle market seemed rather extreme, and anyway, the South-West regional director and the county chairman were coming, and would they be put off because some bloody big lizards are munching on a few animals? It was a problem that could be solved, and it’s not like it can eat all the animals. Even if it was several crocodiles, one cow each would probably satiate them for a while, and several cows going missing wouldn’t even be noticed. It’s just a creature feeding. Nothing more.

Wallis managed to allay Tierney’s anxieties in-so-far as not cancelling the market was concerned, but maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to stock up on weapons, and maybe hire some folks to patrol the areas. Perhaps that would be better. An impromptu lynch mob. There were plenty of people out there with itchy trigger fingers who would love nothing more than to go hunting with rifles, shotguns, and lay traps who would do it all for free because they enjoy it too much.

Perhaps make it public. Then you would get your amateur trophy hunters, your curious voyeurs who would probably go diving in the stream to look for the mysterious crocodile feasting on farm livestock. ‘Look, here it is,’ they would say, pointing inches away from its face. Dangerous for them perhaps, but that would be their choice. If they want to put their head into the mouth of a Lion, then that’s up to them. Plus you would get the amateur filmmakers who would try and capture it on video, and that may not be a bad thing. To have the area with a mysterious creature roaming around, was actually quite attractive for business.

So perhaps another meeting may be in order. Do we go public? And how much funding will we need for more weaponry? and into whose hands will we put them?

Wallis ended the call by simply saying, “I’m not cancelling the fucking market.”


No sooner had he put down the phone than it rang again. It was Linus.

He was panicking.

“My sheepdog! My sheep-dog! She’s been ripped in half.”


Wallis then proceeded to have a similar conversation with Linus regarding what it probably was, and that cancelling the market was a step too far, and it would probably be a good idea to convene another meeting, this time with those maybe from the police and farmers union to decide on a plan of action. Linus was only slightly satisfied but his emotional state was still mostly overwhelmed with his sheepdog of nine years who had been found in the car park. Its front legs desperately trying to crawl forward, its entrails dragging behind, its back legs three metres away. Eyes wide in shock before it collapsed to the side and died. Linus knew that whatever had done it was probably still very close and ran back into the farmhouse slamming and locking the door behind him.

When Wallis put down the phone, he shook his head and sighed, then remembered that soon there was their regular vet due, come to check on three pregnant Friesian cows, and he had staff and volunteers to deal with. Crocodiles he could do without, unless they decided to feed on those cows and take them off his case. Might actually be doing me a favour, he thought. More mouths to feed and vets fees. It was tempting to lead them to the stream and say: ‘Here you go crocs, please take them off my hands, I’ve got enough to deal with.’

He went out and observed his surroundings. Most of the pens were occupied and the sounds simply went in one ear and out the other. Where they the sounds of cows communicating? Or the stress of being cooped up, penned in, jostling amongst the others? It didn’t matter to Wallis. They were simply a means to an end for him. Business commodities. Their stress would be over soon enough, when they ended up in somebody’s burger, but until then there were too many to care about. According to him, seen one cow, seen one sheep, seen one pig, seen ‘em all. They were all passing through on the conveyer belt. Simply people’s food. No point in getting emotionally attached. Objects to buy and sell and eat and make profit from. Business deals and not much more.


For most of the rest of the day, the cattle market ran as normal in preparation for the weekend. The phone calls they had were ordinary business calls, and one from the vet to say he was stuck in traffic. No reports or calls from the other farmers that had had animals killed. The fat crocodile was probably sleeping off its feast, probably ‘couldn’t-eat-a-chicken,’ it would be so stuffed.

Eventually, the vet in his Citreon dispatch van rolled into the car park. Robert Tenneman was overweight, always looked like he’d slept in his clothes, and had an unkempt straggly white beard which had never been maintained, except to be trimmed to stop it growing out of control. To look at and guess his profession, a vet would have been unlikely to have been near the top of the list.

Yet, he knew his stuff and had serviced the cattle market for many a year. Some of the cows out there that were in the pens had probably been brought into the world by him, and plenty that had long gone and been served with carrots and peas.

The three cows that needed check-ups were all just about ready to give birth. In empty stalls, they had been taken and were there until the calves were born.

He shook hands with Wallis with the hand that didn’t hold his case of equipment who led him to the stalls to find the cows.

“D’you know we’ve got a creature on the loose around here,” said Wallis, “eating up our bloody animals.” Robert looked at him as though he was having him on.

“Really,” he said, “A beast on loose.”

“Yes, we reckon it’s a crocodile.”

“A crocodile, round here? Are you kidding?”

“It’s possible.”

“Possible, but unlikely.”

“That’s what I thought, but there’s something out there.”

“A fox maybe.” They reached the stalls and Robert entered, laid down his case, and opened it.

“No, not a fo..” but it was clear Robert had said it as a statement that did not elicit a response.

“I’ll be at the auction house,” said Wallis, and Robert just nodded, keen to get on with his work, which Wallis knew he enjoyed. He was usually very thorough. A ‘check-up’ could last hours, and when he had something major to perform on an animal, it could be all day, much to the chagrin of his colleagues. So Wallis just let him get on with it as he always did and wandered through to the auction house where business occupied his mind for the next couple of hours.

He went and checked on the vet, who was onto the second cow, and night had fallen. A light rain came down, and the market staff had all filtered home, and at the farmhouse Wallis and his wife settled down to eat.

Afterward, he decided he would check on Robert, as usually when he had finished the vet would seek him out, so Wallis made his way to the stalls, and there he was, as usual, forgetting he has a life outside of being a veterinarian, standing there looking at a glum-looking cow lying on the straw. He saw Wallis approach.

“Two of these cows are fine, and will give birth probably any day now, but this one,” he said, leaving the stall and walking into the one next to it, where another cow lay on the straw with its back to a wall, looking like it had been sedated.

“Now I’ve sedated this cow,” he said, “so it won’t need to be disturbed for a while, although its potential to produce milk may be severely depleted as its serum calcium level is likely to drop. It’s heart-rate is just about stable but not ideal and it’s going to need more anionic salts in its feed. I’ve taken a blood sample and I’ll get the results in three days. There seems to be too much fluid in its uterus so I need to keep an eye on her.”

So Robert wound up and gave one last look in at the Friesians before heading away. Wallis wondered if had he seen something in those last quick glances, then he would have put his equipment down, and probably worked through the night.

“I’ll check on these regularly until they birth. I will come tomorrow afternoon and bring the anionic salts, panacur liquid, and pellet supplements. There’s a chance they may all need to be induced but I won’t make that decision just yet. If there’s any problems before I come tomorrow, call me straight away I’ll come down.”

Wallis nodded and thanked him, keen for him to leave so he can settle down in his farmhouse in the scant free time he usually gets, but the vet waffled on for a few more minutes, even getting in his car and driving slowly in an arc, then winding down the window to talk some more.

He bid goodbye to Wallis who hot-footed it back to the farmhouse, and Robert drove along a winding lane and had to slow down for a cattle grid. As he did, noticed that bushes ahead to the right seemed to be rustling. His headlights picked out what seemed to be glowing yellow eyes.


As Wallis was busy making himself a cup of good old-fashioned tea in the kitchen, his wife was busy knitting a toddler's hat for her friend's granddaughter who had just had a baby girl, and movement caught her eye from the front window.

It was dark and rainy out there. They never closed the curtains but had only a thin netting. Intruders and nosy people never ventured out here, so to see a movement at this time of night was curious, especially when the window smashed.

Wallis heard his wife scream and it took a second for his brain to comprehend and spur him into action, which he did as he dashed into the living room. His wife was still screaming, backed against a wall, staring down at the rug where the severed head of the vet now lay.

After five minutes their panicking had only slightly subsided. They had gone upstairs because of the possibility of an intruder, but whoever had thrown it had gone, and Wallis used the bedside telephone, his brain still not functioning properly, so he didn’t ring the police, but farmer Mostyn, who answered after several rings.

“Wallis, what’s..?”

“We need to evacuate the village.”


It took around half an hour for the police and forensics to come and set up shop at the farm, and all the farms closed. An emergency meeting was called in the auction house with all the farmers, the police, and delegates from the national farmers union, and it was decided not to evacuate the village, but to warn people, so they could make their own minds up.

Do they stay locked inside their homes, or do they leave? Coaches to hotels would be laid on for those wishing to evacuate.

Further decisions would have to be made, and a hunting party would be brought together. The police would bring their technology to bear on the areas. Satellites, drones, motion sensor cameras, and there would be patrols up and down the stream.

So far though, there had been no sign of a crocodile.

As is the way when many people get involved in an event, or for a purpose, there will be leaks, and so the media and public caught a sniff of what was going on, and because they heard there was a creature on the loose, they headed towards the danger areas instead of away, bringing their cameras. Some simply bringing notebooks akin to a train or bird-spotter. Perhaps they would be the first to spot the ‘beast-who-loves-to-feast’ if they were brave or stupid enough to look for it.

For the next two days, there was nothing. None of the animals cared about the extra activity going on around them. All they wanted was to be fed and watered and not much else. They did not get on the creature’s menu, as perhaps it had been scared away by all the investigations going on around it.

The media were not as interested as it was in some lesser cases. For one day, vans and reporters came and made nuisances of themselves, sticking microphones into police and locals' faces. ‘Have you seen the beast?’ and filming the fields, stream, and interviewing people who had suddenly become experts on mysterious creatures.

So the media filtered away when they didn’t film or photograph the monster and moved on to other news. There were a few left behind, but even they became part-time.

Farmer Mostyn was grateful to be walking into the village to pick up general supplies. Supplies farming didn’t produce. He had talked and talked and talked lately, and a walk along the lane into the village would be nice.

He approached the cordon where a policeman was leaning against a stonewall, arms folded, looking out across a field. He ducked under the tape and continued along the road.

He noticed that somebody was approaching the barrier with a camera around their neck. It was somebody who he vaguely recognised. Dennis Cook, the village oddball that never got involved with anything. Kind of reclusive, and when they did come out they never seemed happy. The type of person who wears warm clothes in summer and light clothes in winter, and never seemed bothered, or seemed anything strange by it. One of those people that whenever you saw them, they were always alone. So here he was in his dark green khaki trench coat he wore a lot of the time, sporting black straggly hair and an unkempt beard. One of those people that always looked the same year after year. Mostyn and the other farmers only knew him to nod an acknowledgement to.

Mostyn nodded and smiled at him who smiled slightly back. He continued along the inclining downward lane into the village.


Dennis approached the yellow tape and the policeman simply watched him with curiosity but then had to stop him when he made to duck under the barrier.

“Sorry, sorry, you can’t come past here I’m afraid. It’s been cordoned off,” he said, stating the obvious as if Dennis really didn’t know.

“But I want to see the monster. I want to come and photograph the beast,” he said, holding up the camera.

“Sorry, but you’ll have to try somewhere else. This is a crime scene.” Dennis stood looking up towards the farm for a few seconds.

“Sir you can’t photogr…” he was interrupted:

“I heard it was a crocodile they were looking for,” he said.

“Well, maybe,” said the increasingly irate policeman. “Look, could you leave please, only authoris…” he was interrupted again:

“It’s not though. Perhaps it’s a wolf,” he said, then turned and walked back down the incline towards the village.

Police constable Patrick watched him to make sure he really left, then went back to leaning on the wall, but as he did something bugged him.

What did he mean by ‘It’s not though’? He looked back along the lane and saw him disappear out of view.

What did he mea.. he knew that asking himself the question would reveal nothing, and he also thought that as there was a coach leaving soon to take residents who wanted to leave until the creature was captured or killed, maybe this guy doesn’t know about it, as there were still people who needed to know. As many coaches as would be needed would be laid on to take people to hotels, and of course, there would always be the defiant ones.

‘I’m going nowhere. No creature is gonna force me out. If it comes near me I’ll give it what for. I’m not going to be frightened by some bloody big cat or lizard.”

So maybe he wasn’t aware, and just why did he say that? How does he know it’s not a crocodile? and besides, standing here manning the barrier is a tedious task, so Patrick decided to follow Dennis, and he walked quickly to catch up with him, past the small village green with a tiny pond where nothing lived, and along a row of detached houses, and eventually found him up ahead, opening a gate to a house on the outskirts of the village. An unkempt abode that reflected the owner.

Patrick opened a broken wooden gate and saw the front garden was overgrown with grass and weeds, but there was also a table and chair that somehow looked out of place.

He knocked on the flaking-painted red door and Dennis soon answered. He looked quite disappointed.

“You know what officer, I wanted you to follow me, but I’ve changed my mind. So please fuck off.” He closed the door, but Patrick’s reaction was swift, his foot stopping the door from closing properly. It slowly swung back.

“Sir, your attitude is appalling. All I came to do was ask what you meant by you knowing that it’s not a crocodile, and to tell you there’s a coach leaving soon if you want to leave the village, and there’s…” he stopped, as he took in the scruffy looking cluttered hallway. It looked like the contents of a jumble sale, or attic clearout had been dumped there.

“My mother’s,” said Dennis, “she died recently, and I’ve had to take a lot of her stuff on until I work out what to do with it.” Yet, that wasn’t what the constable was looking at. He pointed to the linoleum never-brushed floor by the cluttered stairs.

“Are they bloody footprints?” Dennis looked at them and nodded.

“Yes, they are. Well, you got me. I suppose you’d better take me in.” He held forth his arms, putting his wrists together.

“Cuff me then.” but then he backed away and went into the kitchen.

Patrick knew he had to make a decision fast. He couldn’t remember what his training said about such a situation. Do I call for backup? Or do I go in and arrest him now? He made the arrest decision because he didn’t want him to escape, so entered, making sure not to stand on the evidence, and stopping in the kitchen doorway, forgetting his training again about entering with caution. The man could have been standing behind the wall with a hammer, or a gun, but no, there he was, naked as the day he was born, standing normally beside the fridge.

“Ever heard of a lycanthrope, officer, or a werewolf?” He didn’t wait for an answer, “because I like to think of myself as neither of them, but you could be forgiven. I like to think of myself as a were-beast.”

Patrick entered the kitchen with the express intention of arresting Dennis. He took out his handcuffs but then stopped as he saw that Dennis had lifted his hand. It was black and furry and had claws. The transformation was seconds. His whole body morphed into an eight-foot angry looking wolf-beast. With shining yellow eyes, sleek black fur all over, and vicious-looking teeth in its large red mouth, it crouched on its powerful hind legs and leapt at the policeman. Its strong hand-paw powered through layers of uniform and tore into his chest, easily ripping out his heart and then eating it, blood spilling down and matting the fur on its chest. Patrick had slammed into the doorframe. It all happened so fast that he looked down at his gaping chest with a sense of wonder. He didn’t have time to faint or collapse, as the gaping mouth with its sharp teeth and tongue closed around his head, and he felt the skin and tendons and veins in his neck rip as it tore his head off.

With the last of his oxygen in the brain, his mind was still alive as his head was in the beast’s mouth, and he died when its powerful mouth crushed it like an egg.

It didn’t swallow, however, just backed away, chewing and spitting it out onto the floor. Fragments of skull, brain, blood, and viscera splattered the kitchen.

The body collapsed onto its back, blood pooling around it, and the creature knelt down to lap some of it like water from the cavity in his chest because some was gathering there before spilling over. It had its fill then stood up, the snout and teeth dripping.

It morphed back into Dennis Cook, who then got back into his clothes which had a few specks of blood on, but not enough for anyone to point out, and walked into the front room, sitting in a well-worn armchair, packed suitcase at the side.   

Despite the house being fairly large, built mainly for a family, not one solitary man, the living room wasn’t very big. Made even smaller by his mother, Heather Cook’s items which he had accrued when she died two weeks earlier. Small tables, lamps, her clothes, plenty of shoes, and items of necromancy.

He had no idea what to do with it all. Some part of his mind told him to simply dump it and put a match to it, but he loved his mother, even though he had hardly ever seen her. He knew she couldn’t look after him properly, as she had had plenty of dealings with social services, and when they finally took Dennis away when he was eight, there were no tears from her. She was too wrapped up in her spirituality and amateur witchcraft to even notice him sometimes.

She had her secrets though, and he knew that was to protect him. Although there was one thing that wasn’t a secret, and it meant she was seen as the local oddity. Fingers pointed and tongues wagged. She did have friends, but they were similar to her and were curious what had happened when she was a teenager camping in the Norwegian woods with three student friends. What happened was in the media for a few days before they moved on, and that was from where the fingers pointed. They weren’t particularly hostile, more curious.

Some called her the wolf-woman.

A storm had ventured further south from the Arctic than it normally does and she and her friends had tried to retreat to a local camping area. Only she didn’t make it. They all kind of got lost in the whirling snowy maelstrom, but all three of them except for Heather made it back.

When the storm had passed, a search party left but could not find her. She had gone.

She had gone for two weeks when she staggered back, without her rucksack, but clutching a small honey jar.

Dennis held the honey jar, now empty, in his hand. It had been filled with fluid, and several days ago, he had drank it, because Heather had tried to be a white witch, but her sorcery had taken her down paths which were good and bad, but knew to keep this from him. She had written notes and spells, and a lot about wolves, which her two weeks in the Norwegian woods had given her an obsession of.

As she had hunkered down against a tree while the storm raged around her, a wolf had emerged, seemingly not bothered by the weather. It seemed she was next to a wolf’s lair, but the animal seemingly led her inside, and in she went.

For the next two weeks, she stayed with the pack of twenty-plus wolves, seemingly kind of ‘raised’ by them, until she decided it was time to go back to civilisation, and the wolves let her go. They seemed sad that she was going, as did she, but both knew she couldn’t stay, and it was time to return.

When she left she returned to the UK and became more embroiled in her craft and wolf lore. She kept the honey jar filled with pink liquid safe and had concocted a spell that she performed on the jar knowing what would happen when she drank it. However, after the incantations, she was quite disappointed to find that she could not drink it. She was too fearful.

Writing it all down in her notebooks, she neglected to write what would happen, but kind of gave the impression not to drink it, but Dennis, knowing what it was, didn’t care. He was the village oddball and knew it. He never knew his mother really and was leaving on the coach which he knew was to depart in about ten minutes.

There were a lot of her witchcraft items around. Bowls, smudging sticks, candles, herbs, crystals, notebooks, and the empty honey jar. He looked inside and saw there was what seemed to be one drop left. He lifted it to his mouth and it slowly trickled down and landed on his tongue. He swallowed, then stood up, and put the jar on a small table. It had contained mixed wolf semen and blood.

Her notes did not reveal how she had acquired both.

He was tempted to simply burn the place down, but he quite liked the idea of being hunted.

Hunter and hunted were appealing to him. So they would suspect him and come looking.

Bring them on.

He wondered if he should thank his mother, now he can transform at will, and the internal lycanthropy gave his human self a confidence he had never felt before. He felt good since drinking the liquid. According to him he felt absolutely fucking wonderful, and healthy.

“Thanks, mum,” he said, “wherever you are.” He closed her notebook on the same small table, then turned and picked up his suitcase and left the house, leaving the door open purposely.

Outside the ‘The farmer’s twin barrels’, the coach was waiting. There were a few stragglers heading to it, of which he was one, and he entered, some who were already casting him wry glances. ‘Oh good, the village oddball wants to leave as well. I hope he doesn’t sit next to me.’

He found a seat halfway up, next to a pensioner that didn’t know him and wouldn’t have cared even if she did.

“Good thing we’re leaving now to avoid the beast,” she said.

“Yes,” said Dennis, “it really is.”

He looked out of the window, adding, “It’s out there somewhere.” 

Written by Lev821
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