Leader of the Pack

The wolf hunkered down and watched two men set their deadly traps in the snow. He was the leader of a local wolf pack. It was his job to kill, or turn, intruders away.

He followed them back to their camp. That made two sets of trappers. Each unaware of the other. He turned back to the first camp he discovered. The trappers saw him. Shot and missed. Gave chase. The wolf led them right by where the other two men set traps.

One of his pursuers screamed as he stepped into a trap!

One less human to deal with.

 

 

The Hunter and the Gorilla

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Avery’s passion was to kill (and mount) rare and endangered animals.

He would go to any length to hunt one for his private collection. There was never a question of morality with his hobby. He was unencumbered with a conscience. Free to think independently. He was a self-made man, an inventor who earned millions from the many patents he owned.

It took two years for his private museum to be built near his favorite mansion in Blue Sky, Colorado. He took out his previous kills that were in storage and displayed them in natural-looking scenes. He spared no expense in lighting and stage craft for each animal. He looked forward to sharing his private museum with his fellow hunters who thought nothing of laws when it came to the chase.

As he inventoried his collection he realized that he was missing a key animal. The endangered mountain gorilla. In particular, a silverback gorilla. So, he went on his computer and started to make arrangements for a hunt in Rwanda. He’d have to call all of his connections in Africa to arrange such an illegal hunt.

The Virunga Mountains, Western Rwanda

Rwanda’s largest National Park, Parc Nacional Volcans, is a haven for rare and endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. It’s home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains.

Deep in the forest there roamed one particularly large and intelligent Silverback gorilla. He was the leader of a troop of 50 gorillas. At six-feet tall and 500 pounds he was unopposed by males from other troops. Like most gorillas he could eat 40 pounds of food a day.

He preferred to eat vegetation such as wild celery, shoots, roots, fruit, tree bark and tree pulp, but had no problem eating small animals and insects in a pinch. The lordly Silverback spent his mornings and evenings eating. The middle of his day was spent napping or playing with other gorillas. Submissive gorillas groomed him until he sent them away.

The dominate Silverback and his troop claimed a territory of 16 square miles. This Silverback however, was like no other because he was highly intelligent and had the thought process of a man. He spent his life watching humans from afar and quickly determined they were dangerous when they carried certain objects that made a loud bang and killed up to a long distance. Without their weapon, he realized, they were practically helpless. Years of observation taught him a lot about hunters and the local natives. Under his leadership, none of his troop had fallen prey to the professional big game hunters. He taught them to avoid men at all costs. The big Silverback often felt lonely with his complex thoughts, but members of his troop always cheered him up.

It was raining the day that Avery showed up with two guides at the foot of the Virunga Mountains. They pitched a tent and waited for the rain to stop. When the rain subsided a blue bird with a purple comb, and a yellow and orange beak, cried out in alarm. Other birds picked up the cry and carried it deep into the jungle.

The big Silverback knew what the birds were saying. Danger. Men nearby. He got up from his nest of leaves, cutting his nap short, to investigate. Before he left he warned his troop not to come in contact with the deadly men. Then he plunged into the forest in search of the enemy. It was dark before he discovered their camp. They had barely penetrated the vast forest’s interior. There were two tents. A lantern glowed inside one of them. He could see there was only one shadow inside. Then someone merged from the other tent. A Rwandan guide. He started walking directly towards the Silverback’s concealment. He stopped just short of the tree the Silverback was hiding behind, opened his cargo shorts, and relieved himself. The smell of the warm piss suddenly enraged the Silverback who roared and went after the guide! The man tripped just outside his tent and screamed! The Silverback pounded his ham-sized fists into the guide’s face and torso. In his blind rage he sank his fangs into the man’s neck.

Another guide popped his head out of the tent, saw the angry gorilla and ran for his life. Avery stepped outside of his tent with a high-powered rifle just as the Silverback slammed into him!

The power of the charge sent Avery flying backwards a few feet. The Silverback pounded his chest and roared in rage as Avery, still on the ground, pulled his pistol out and shot him! The Silverback felt a flash of pain in his chest and realized he had to run away. Avery fired five more times at him as he tore through the bushes. Two of the bullets hit him. One in his right arm. The other in his back. His blood pumped out rapidly as he lumbered through the thick undergrowth and vegetation deeper into the interior. He knew he’d made a fatal mistake in confronting the camp.

Avery bent over and tried to get his breath as his chest pounded in pain. He suspected he had broken ribs. It didn’t matter though, he told himself. He was going to get that Silverback. It would be the crown jewel of his collection. When the other guide returned he helped wrap Avery’s torso with Ace Bandages. He had to double the guide’s fee for him to go on. Despite the pain Avery was insistent. He’d get his trophy.

Two of the young males in the Silverbacks’ troop found him sitting down with his back against a tree. They immediately knew something was wrong and chattered fearfully while picking at his wounds. Their wails of alarm attracted other members until soon the whole troop surrounded him. Some of the females cried and hugged their offspring as they sensed the severity of the Silverback’s wounds. Finally he was able to get enough strength to stand up and called for the troops attention. He called one of the larger males over to him. The Silverback had discovered this male was as smart as he was. Sparing no time he instructed the male to lead the troop into new territory. Further into the vast mountain network. The male accepted his role and herded the troop away, leaving the Silverback to die alone.

It took two days for Avery to stumble across the dying Silverback. He looked at him defiantly and showed his teeth as Avery raised his rifle to finish the job. Then a pack of angry mountain gorillas, led by the smart male, swarmed over him and the guide! They were flung around like rag dolls until they quit moving.

Afterwards the gorillas covered the dead Silverback in leaves, as the smart one, their new leader, instructed them.

As It Stands, this tale is in recognition of the endangered animals on our planet.

Back To ‘His Image’

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Truman’s dream came from an ancestral memory of when humans walked the earth. Before the great morph, and the changes in their anatomy that forced them to live under the sea.

He saw people walking in deserts, forests, mountain trails, and paved streets in massive cities. They were all able to breathe the sweet air they took for granted. It was before the gills started showing up in babies. Before fingers and toes were routinely webbed. It was in a time before mankind unleashed dooms-day bombs that nearly destroyed the planet and it’s inhabitants.

He didn’t question his dream. As usual, he just wished it was longer.

The ocean was a dangerous place, but twisted evolution made it even worse. When the first humans were forced to be water-dwellers they were confronted with monstrosities in the dark depths and quickly preyed upon. But as millions of humans morphed and banded together, they learned how to survive the terrors in seas across the planet.

Truman’s job in the colony he lived in was to provide food. He and many other “gatherers” constantly sought plants, and small forms of sea life, like crabs, lobsters, and oysters to feed the colony’s five thousand inhabitants. It was a daily job. A way of life. Part of the tapestry of their city under the sea.

After bringing back his daily quota, Truman spent most of his time exploring. Sometimes his friends came with him and they found ancient shipwrecks replete with artifacts in gold, silver, copper, and precious stones like diamonds and rubies. They would study them and admire how light danced through the diamonds as the lighting above beamed down through the depths and passed through them. They’d spend hours trying to figure out what the corroded pieces of metal were. Especially the massive metal tubes scattered near some wrecks. Without disturbing the artifacts they’d go back to their city. They were useless in the world Truman lived in.

The dreams started when he was eighteen years old.

The early dreams were like going to a school and learning simple lessons. As the years passed by, the messages became more complex and would puzzle him for days afterward. In the last year his dreams became a tour of another age. He saw humans with varied skin colors, but without scales like his. They built fantastic machines that flew in the sky and rumbled across the earth. They erected architectural wonders all over the world.

Truman jealously guarded his secret dream life. It was a wonderful escape from his dull existence. People would just laugh at him, and he didn’t want that. His temper could lead to getting him kicked out of the colony. That was a scary thought.

In the dream a man appeared and asked Truman questions. The odd thing was he was able to answer him! He temporarily felt a wave of nausea and then they were both standing on a beach. Truman started to panic when he realized he was out of the water, but the strange man reassured him it was okay. And, it was. Somehow he was able to breathe. He looked up and down the beach. It seemed endless. Turning away from the water he saw sand dunes leading to a garden. He knew what a garden was. He learned that lesson early on in his dreams.

“Do you want to explore?” the man asked.

“Can, I?” Truman hesitantly asked.

In spite of himself Truman woke up. His heart was still beating fast with anticipation. “Damn!” he muttered out loud.

Picking up his corral spear and knife, he slipped out of the common sleeping room and went in search of food. He was daydreaming and not paying attention when the mega shark appeared directly ahead of him! As fast as he was, there was no way he could out swim the massive creature. It’s four eyes, and the two tentacles that grew from its misshapen head with eyeballs on their ends, looked at him hungrily. He’d never been cornered before by a monster this large before. It’s sheer size was a horror to behold. He cleared his hunter’s mind and held the spear up and planted his web feet firmly. He held on as it pierced the largest eye on its head! The beast thrashed in agony and churned the water around so strongly he was flung to one side. His survival instinct urged him to swim in the opposite direction as fast as he could. It was an hour before he felt it was safe to come out of the cave he found in his flight. Despite what happened, he couldn’t go home yet and began looking for food.

The stranger came to him in his dream that night.

They were on the beach again. He was able to breathe air again. “How?” he asked.

“Those plugs in your nostrils and ears.

“Can we go to the garden?” Truman wondered.

“Yes, of course. Follow me.

As they walked through the beautiful garden with lush fruits hanging from trees, Truman asked where the animals were? The stranger smiled and said, “The construct isn’t complete yet. I have a lot of work yet to go. I’m reconstructing another age.”

 “Where is this?”

Somewhere between reality and the renaissance of the earth,” the stranger explained.

Have I died? Or, am I still dreaming?

“Dreaming…but some day…

Truman bolted upright and looked around the room. It was almost empty. Only a few sleepers remained. Once again he was disappointed that he wasn’t still dreaming. The stranger sounded so encouraging. He knew something special was happening and wanted to be part of it. Sighing, he got up and started his day.

Months passed by without The Dream. Truman was distraught. He no longer explored or hung out with his friends. He gathered his daily quota of food, then went off to be by himself.

The dream came back one night.

The stranger, whose white beard was longer than the last time he saw him, appeared weary, but satisfied.

The construct is nearly finished. Are you ready for a new life?”

“Yes!” Truman quickly answered.

“You still have the blood of the first man I created. And the soul of a good man. Now I give you the body of a true man,” the stranger said. “Welcome to paradise…Adam II.”

As It Stands, was mankind ready for redemption?

The Butcher, Cook, and the Candlemaker

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When the Tranker triplets processed a kill nothing went to waste.

The brother’s, and the couple that adopted them,  ran a small inn offering food and a place to sleep for weary travelers hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The rude log structure they lived in was two stories high and nearly a hundred years old. Once upon a time, the whole Tranker family lived there with other extended members of the family. But after the terrible slaughter of 1936, the only members left alive were the triplets, Bob, Barry, and Bradley.

The boys were taken in by a distant cousin and her husband after their parents, aunts and uncles were butchered like pigs one warm summer night. They decided to turn the house into a bed-and-breakfast. The boys were eleven years-old during this transition in their lives. The new man in the house, and their stand-in for a father, was Uriah Jones, a hard-drinking hunter who was also a crack shot. His wife Ellie was an excellent cook and house-keeper. She maintained a garden of vegetables, did housework, cooked meals, and assigned chores to the boys every day. There was always wood to be chopped and water hauled. The pigs and chickens had to be fed and cared for. The cow milked every morning. The two-acre wooden fence that formed a perimeter around the house and barn, was constantly in need of repair. There was no shortage of work for the triplets, who were sturdy mountain boys accustomed to hard labor.

With Uriah as a teacher, the triplicates became crack shots and excellent hunters. With Ellie’s help they learned how to cook a great meal, and to grow fertile gardens of vegetables and melons. The years passed peacefully and they were able to make a good living. Travelers came and went without incident.

The boys each had their own hobbies. Barry learned how to make long-lasting candles from animal fat that he fashioned into unusual shapes. Bob, who was the best hunter among them, was best at butchering kills. He made an art out of it. Bradley was the best cook, making simple mouth-watering meals that never failed to please people. Uriah and Ellie were as proud of the triplets as if they were their own.

Uriah and Ellie had a lot to be thankful for. When they had to flee Signal Mountain, Tennessee ahead of the authorities they weren’t sure where to go. If it wasn’t for one of Ellie’s cousins they would have never known about the “family tragedy” and the need for someone to raise the surviving triplets after that terrible night of slaughter. When Uriah arrived in the Blue Mountains the first thing he did was to challenge all the best shots in the valley. None of them ever realized they were competing against a WW I Army sniper with a record amount of kills in his company.

It didn’t take long for Uriah and Ellie to fit in comfortably with the small community. The boys however never strayed from the inn, and refused to go to local square dances and shindigs for the holidays. None of them were comfortable around people, but they all managed to treat guests well enough because there were seldom complaints. They all felt more at ease hunting in the rolling hills, forests, and meadows near the inn.

Truth be told, most of the locals weren’t very comfortable with the triplets. They felt sorry for them, but were also slightly uneasy around them. Dark rumors traveled along the local gossip line for years…rumors suggesting the boys might have committed the gruesome murders themselves. There was never any evidence of that, according to the Sheriff. But the rumors were persistent, as they tend to be when they’re sensational. It didn’t help that the triplicates were anti-social. One of them, Barry, had a lazy left eye that seemed to spook everyone. Superstitious folk claimed it was an evil eye.

Fall was making its mark and the leaves on the trees were a carnival of brilliant colors when a stranger from Tennessee showed up at the inn one day. He was a tall thin man whose baggy suit hung on him like a scarecrow. Barry watched up walking up the road, suitcase in hand and clutching his fedora against the blustery wind. Folks didn’t usually come to stay at this time of year and Barry frowned at him as he approached the porch. Just then Bradley, the most social of the triplets, came out the front door and greeted the stranger jovially.

“How kin I hep ya mister?”

“Lookin fer a place to stay for a couple of days,” the stranger replied while sitting his suitcase down on the wooden porch.

“I reckon we’ve got a spare bed, and a meal. You got cash?

“Sure do.” He pulled out his wallet and peeled off some bills. “Will that do?” he asked.

Bradley took the proffered money, and nodded. “Room upstairs to the right. Got a buck’s head mounted above it.”

“Obliged.”

He picked his suitcase up and stepped inside as Bradley held the door open for him.

“What’s yer name stranger?” Bradley asked him as he started up the stairs.

“Darren.”

There was a pause, then Bradley said, “Mine’s, Bradley. My brother Barry is on the porch, and my other brother Bob is out hunting for tonight’s dinner. Our folks are in town, but they’ll be back tonight.”

“Are you…?”

I reckon so, we un’s all look-alike cause we’re triplicates.

When Uriah and Ellie got home late that night, Barry was still sitting on the porch despite the chilly night.

“You okay son?” Uriah asked.

“We got a border upstairs,” he grumbled.

“So? We uns always have boarders. Ya know that Barry. Git along. Git some sleep now.”

“Don’t like ’em…” Barry’s voice followed Uriah and Ellie to bed.

The next morning.

As usual, Ellie was the first one up in the house making coffee and breakfast while it was still dark outside. Shortly thereafter, Uriah came into the kitchen and sat down at the head of the table. He was sipping his coffee when he heard someone coming down the stairs.

“Must be our new boarder,” he told Ellie.

When Darren stepped into the kitchen, Ellie dropped a plate in fright and Uriah rose up from his chair in alarm. The tall thin man reached under his baggy jacket and pulled out an old navy Colt revolver.

“I knew I’d finally catch up to you two murdering thieves! When you robbed that hardware store in Signal Mountain you killed my pa, but only wounded me! I’ve been hunting for you for a long time!”

Uriah lunged at Darren who leveled his gun and fired at him point-blank! Ellie tried to pick up a knife to defend herself with, but Darren shot her in the head first! It was over in moments. The acrid smell of gun smoke mingled with the freshly cooked rolls on the kitchen counter and the bacon burning in the frying pan.

The gunfire woke up the triplets who slept in the second bedroom downstairs. By the time they ran out of their room Darren had fled. The triplicate’s tortured howls of grief sounded like wounded wolves! The only two people in the world they trusted were brutally executed. Murdered while they slept nearby.

The triplicates knew the area like the back of their hand, and split up after agreeing to a preordained meeting spot at noon. Each had a hunting rifle. They all were expert trackers. It was just a matter of time before they found their quarry.

Barry bagged Darren less than a mile from the cabin in an open meadow. He was limping along and never saw the bullet coming. Barry tied a rope around his ankles and drug his body to the meeting place. When Bradley and Bob showed up they complimented him.

“Good shootin’, brother,” they chorused.

The three brothers took Darren’s corpse back to the barn and hung it from the heels with meat hooks. Bob got his butcher knife and began carving the body up into meaty slabs and hunks. Barry and Bradley built a fire and put a 55 gallon drum with water in it over the flames. Bob tossed gobbets of flesh into the barrel until all that was left was bones and globs of body fat carefully trimmed off the meat. Bradley took the fat and stored it with his candle making supplies. After 24 hours there was nothing left of Darren but boiled meat, which they froze. His bones were ground up into a powder by Bradley.

Nearly two days passed before the brothers agreed to contact the sheriff. When he came out with his deputy he immediately noticed that rigor mortis had set in on the victims, and they smelled real bad! Pinching his nose with one hand, the sheriff indicated they should step outside with the other. As usual the brothers spoke in dull monotones and a minimum of words while being interviewed. They told their story and said the killer got away. The following investigation increased the suspicions of some locals who whispered the boys did it again, and murdered in cold blood like so many years before.

With no evidence, they were exonerated by the law, but not by the locals who feared them. The triplicates got their revenge against Darren, and re-discovered their taste for human flesh. A taste they all developed, and hadn’t satisfied since they murdered their entire family all those years ago!

You Better Watch Out!

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CNS Reality Show – You Better Watch Out

Episode 10What an Ugly Surprise 

Lester the Jester was slowing down. His two giant pursuers meanwhile were still methodically following him. They were much slower. The only hope they had of catching him was their unreal endurance. They never stopped plodding after him. Day, and night. He’d run far ahead of them to get a few minutes rest before moving on again.

The cameras didn’t miss a detail, offering viewers split screens with close-ups and panoramic shots. The giants, two Ekons from Mars, were making their television debut and already had a legion of fans after nine episodes. This tenth installment featured a new character for the giants to chase and kill. Lester the Jester, as the promoters called him, was an earthling who volunteered as a way to get out of prison and a life sentence. He didn’t complain when the director made him wear a silly court jester costume complete with floppy hat. He was ready for a quick death and although it was unlikely, possible freedom.

All he had to do was kill the giants before they killed him. Although he wasn’t given any weapons to start with, the show’s creators did hide a few weapons in the valley where he was headed. They were careful to add to the drama by giving Lester a chance to survive. Thus far, every character that the giants went after they killed. The victim’s demise was always gruesome.

After scaling a series of hills, Lester came down into a valley. Halfway down the last hill he stopped and surveyed the rough terrain ahead. There was a river running through the center of the valley which was heavily forested as far as he could see. The giant redwoods looked like silent sentinels as he entered the forest which was bathed under the light of a full moon.

The mighty Sequoia sempervirens stood as high as 350-feet, and seemed to reach out into the night sky and embrace the stars. There was no doubt that he’d be harder to detect in the heavy undergrowth. He knew the Ekons were famous for their sense of smell, and he couldn’t count on hiding in one place too long. Instead he focused his energies into looking for hidden weapons. Hours later he sat down at the base of one of the trees feeling discouraged when he noticed a glint of light reflect off of something in a massive root. It was a hunting knife. His joy was short lived as he realized the knife wouldn’t do him much good against one, let alone two, Ekons that were eager to chew on his bones.

But, it would help him sharpen broken tree limbs that could be used in traps. As a hunter, Lester traveled the world and solar system before running afoul of earth’s hunting laws and killing a game warden. That was his ticket to prison and now perhaps a grisly death. It was an accident, but it didn’t matter. The court ground him up and spit him out into a harsh penal system for life. When the producer of “You Better Watch Out!” came to visit him, he recognized it was his last chance. He knew he never could break out of the prison.

The Ekons were brothers. Both Martians stood 12-feet tall and were heavily muscled and so dense they each weighed over a ton. In addition, earth’s gravity slowed them down. But once they got their hands on someone it was over. They felt confident that they’d get through their last challenge easily to win the grand prize. When they ascended to the valley they were surprised to see a new type of terrain. Neither had ever hunted in such an imposing forest and both were in awe at first. They bent their heads back, squat necks straining to look up, and marveled at the great heights.

The Econs were there for the glory and the money. For Lester it was all about survival. There was no longer a need for him to run. He could now try to turn the tide with traps and some luck. He started off with a basic trap. A punji pit. It required digging a hole and lining the bottom with sharpened sticks. He picked a place a few yards in front of one of the trees and went to work digging the soft loam with his knife. As he placed the last stick he heard a voice. The Econs were coming. He nimbly scrambled out of the four-foot by six foot-deep trench and back up to the tree’s base, holding his knife up defiantly and waited.

It didn’t take long. The younger brother appeared first and quickly spotted Lester. He let out a happy shout and moved steadily towards him. For a moment, he thought the Econ was going to sidestep the trap, but suddenly the giant’s legs plunged down and were impaled by the stakes. He roared in agony as his brother appeared. Not wasting a moment, Lester ran up to the giant and slashed his throat as he was thrashing about in agony! His brother roared in rage and reached out, almost grasping Lester before he eluded him and ran deeper into the forest.

After a few minutes he quit running and slowed down to a walk. He didn’t hear any pursuit. The older brothers wail of grief and anger boomed through the forest and he picked up his pace again. Along the way he picked up sticks to sharpen later. He noticed a CNS Drone with camera hovering over him as he continued to stealthily stalk through the thick underbrush. He was exhausted. Only the adrenalin coursing through his veins kept him moving. Fear was a great motivator.

To his horror, the older Econ was making up ground on him. He could hear his beastly grunts as he thrashed his way through the forest. Even fear wasn’t going to keep him moving forever, however. Then he saw a spear sticking out of a tree straight ahead. He had to jump to pull it out and was gasping for air when the older Ekon appeared a few yards away.

The two enemies stared at one another as the CNS drone hovered nearby. The Econ was the first to move forward. Lester waited for his slow motion charge and braced the spear on the ground by his foot for leverage. It barely pierced the giant’s scaly hide over the heart. As the Ekon pulled it out, he let go, pulled his knife out and threw it at the giant’s head. The blade penetrated his eye and stuck in his skull. His screams were terrible as he gripped the knife to pull it out. Lester recovered the spear and ran it into the giant’s other eye! A thick arm caught him as it thrashed around, and sent him flying for a few feet. He landed with broken ribs from the force of the blow.

As he lay gasping for air the CNS drone hovered overhead and he could hear the announcers voice.

“Viewers, we have a winner! Lester the Jester has defied the odds and earned his freedom.”

“All right! Now get someone here to take me to a hospital,” Lester said to the drone.

“I’m sorry,” the announcer’s voice replied. “You don’t seem to understand. You’re free to go, but transportation isn’t provided in your contract. Good day Lester, and from the folks at “You Better Watch Out,” good luck!”

As It Stands, the devil is in the details.

Taffyman, The Terror of Trenton

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Once, Trenton New Jersey’s claim to fame was that it was (briefly) the Capital of the United States. Since the Taffyman first appeared in 2024, that positive moment in history has been overshadowed by one of terror stalking the city.

It was two teenage boys that first saw the Taffyman in downtown Trenton, near the Mill Hill neighborhood where they lived. The boys were riding their bicycles home from football practice and it was getting dark when they saw a tall thin figure down the road beneath a street lamp.

It was dancing in a little circle while laughing happily. They slowed down, until they stopped about a block away. The man, they could make out his yellowish skin stretched across his round face now, stopped his dancing and looked at them.

For days after the incident all the boys could talk about was his eyes. There were no pupils. They looked like the soulless eyes of a shark.

As they watched he smiled and reached out one arm that kept coming towards them! It reached an exaggerated length when both boys stopped being mesmerized by the impossibility. They turned their bicycles around and pedaling away with all of their strength.

People laughed at the boys when they first told their story. Some wits even called the boys boogeyman, the Taffyman. Ditties like “The Taffyman can..” became popluar at their school.

A week later a drunk from Louie’s Bar bumped into the Taffyman. It was 2 a.m. Closing time. The drunk, Jerry Burkhart, wasn’t in a good mood because the bartender kicked his ass out. He took a swing at the tall thin man in front of him who simply moved his head back…without taking a step. His suddenly long neck wobbled for a moment then returned to its normal size and place.

Even drunk, Jerry knew something wasn’t right. The man’s arms grew like snakes and struck out, engulfing Jerry’s body! They wrapped around his torso and squeezed like twin Anacondas! Jerry passed out from lack of air. When he woke up on the sidewalk his ribs hurt. He still had his wallet, so whatever he ran into wasn’t interested in robbing him. When Jerry told his story he was confronted with skepticism. His reputation preceded him.

Thus far the early encounters with the Taffyman were relatively harmless. But one day a hunter (who fired before properly identifying his target) saw him in the forest dancing wildly and fired two quick shots at him! One bullet hit him below his right eye and he shrieked like a banshee! He ran away before the hunter could fire at him again. The hunter, convinced he’d hit his target tried to track him down, but had no success. He still wasn’t sure what he shot at, and idly hoped it wasn’t a man as he drove back to Trenton.

That night, unbeknownst to the hunter, Taffyman followed him home – loping in the growing darkness behind the hunter’s pickup truck. Taffyman could see the hunter and his wife through the front window sitting in reclining chairs. They finally turned off the lights and went to the bedroom. It was time.

Taffyman climbed up to the roof and went over to the chimney. He effortlessly slid down it and reformed in the dark living room. There was a puckered hole beneath his eye where the bullet passed through him with no effect other than a localized pain. It was enough to anger him. He moved confidently in the dark until he found the right room. They were both in bed. He went to the hunter’s side and put his rubbery hand over his mouth. His eyes opened in terror. He picked him up like a baby and carried him into the living room.

With one extra-large hand engulfing the hunter’s face, he couldn’t scream when he pulled his right arm out of the socket! Then the left. After that he twisted his legs so hard the kneecaps shattered as he wrenched them out of their sockets. He was busy twisting the mans head around when his wife walked in and screamed! There was a snapping sound as he let go of the man’s head. He got up and left through the front door without looking back.

The wife’s story made the murder go national as reporters from all over the east coast sought interviews with her. The authorities didn’t know what to think about her story. The coroner was perplexed by a few things as he examined the body during the autopsy. Rumors grew like mushrooms in bars, as people debated if the killer would reappear somewhere else.

After that, every unexplained murder was attributed to the Taffyman. It was during this period that old-timers say he no longer was seen dancing or laughing. His attacks became more frequent and the bodies accumulated over the years. Baffled authorities never gave up trying to catch him, but they were helpless to predict when he’d strike next.

They knew nothing about the killer. The newspapers and media picked up the derisive nickname Taffyman, after hearing about how the two teenage boys were ridiculed by community members after the first sighting. The name stuck.

The Taffyman’s decision to stay in Trenton was a curse the old city didn’t deserve. But, that changed one day after a casual encounter.

After years of revenge he was growing weary. Thoughts of moving on became more frequent. His anger was gone.

He was walking through a community park early one morning when he saw a young girl bumping into things. She looked to be about 12-years old, and was pointing her arms out in front of her. He watched her barely avoid a trash can and turn towards a pond where several ducks were calmly floating. She was heading in that direction and was within two steps of the water, when he shot his arm out and grabbed her by the elbow. She was startled by the touch and cried out, “Help me. I’m blind and lost!

Something turned over in his heart as he said, “I’ll take you home.”

No one seemed to notice the tall thin man with the little girl walking along, holding hands. She gave him her address, and told him her name was Bonnie. He was familiar with most of Trenton and didn’t have trouble narrowing down her neighborhood.

“What color is your house?” he asked.

“Brown, and white.”

“How do you know?

“My parents told me in case of an emergency. I wish I knew what colors looked like,” she added wistfully.

He looked down the block and saw a house fitting her description. As he walked her over to the house, he asked how she came to be so far from her home?

“I went for a walk, but must have accidentally turned on the wrong street. I have a regular route that I take. When I took too many steps, I realized something was wrong. I panicked. But thanks to you sir, I’m home,” she said while opening a little white gate leading to the front door of a brown-and-white house.

“Would you like to meet my parents,” she asked.

The smile that crept onto his round face felt good. “No, but thank you for asking. I have to go.”

“Can I ask you, what’s your name?”

He grinned playfully. “Taffyman. My name is Taffyman,” he replied, and went into a little dance.

As It Stands, this tale of revenge, and redemption, is a theme that goes back to ancient times.

Don’t Forget To Read The Fine Print

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1636 – south-western France

“Your first target will be released at sunrise on this open plain. There are rules to this game. One of the first, and foremost, is you have to count until 25 the moment you see your target, before going after him.”

“What other rules are there monsieur?” Demonte Thomas asked as he strung his bow.

You can’t go after your prey if he makes it through the forest and to the other side of the valley.”

“So many rules,” Chauncey Girard grumbled, “I hope there’s no rules against taking souvenirs, if you know what I mean.”

“No. You may dispatch of your prey as you see fit. After all, it’s one of the things you’re paying for. Just a reminder, you have to use bow and arrow, and one knife. Guns are forbidden.”

“We’re ready to play by the rules. After paying for transportation here from the Year 2018, the last thing we want is to have this hunt called off,” Avellino Lefevre said.

“One more thing,” the guide added, “Just a reminder. Our company cannot be held liable for whatever happens on these hunts. You all signed contracts to that effect. I hope you read them carefully.”

The three hunters assured their guide that they did.

“Why did you pick this time and place?” Demonte asked Girard who was testing the pull on his bow.

“Because of the novelty it presented,” he explained.

“Novelty?” Demonte asked.

“This is the year when French peasants who called themselves croquant’s (literally, “crunchers”) revolted against their masters. It’s an extremely bad time for the French nobility who found themselves scurrying around for their lives.”

“I don’t follow?” Avellino injected.

“Our guide mentioned an option for hunting nobility during his pitch for this place. I don’t know if you were listening closely, but this is a very rare hunting opportunity,” Girard said.

After the three men drew straws to see who would go first, Girard won the honor. The guide led them to a hunting lodge where they would spend the night.

The next morning.

As the sun struggled to break through the fog on the plain, Girard was taken to a spot where he was told to look for his prey who would be released in minutes. When he finally spotted a well-dressed brightly colored man whose clothes were torn and dirty, he raised the bow and starting counting to twenty-five.

Before he could send the arrow on its way however, the man disappeared into the thick fog. Irritated, Girard lowered his bow – it would have been a shot of about 50 yards – and cautiously headed towards where he last saw him.

The fog was slowly dissipating when he caught another glance of his prey. He was almost at the tree line. Girard knew it would be more difficult to get a good shot once in the forest, but welcomed the challenge. It was what he paid for, after all. He picked up his pace.

Girard was a seasoned hunter and tracker. His prey was a terrified nobleman who was use to a life of luxury.

When Girard inevitably caught up to him he was hiding behind a fallen tree. He’d dug his way in among the leaves and broken limbs and was out of breath and panting heavily.

“Pas!” he gasped in horror when he saw Girard.

It was still daylight when Girard returned carrying a bloody scalp and two ears in his leather hunting pouch.

His comrades toasted him at the lodge that night for a successful hunt.

The next morning.

Avellino paced back and forth eagerly looking for his prey as the sun climbed up into the sky. The plain was clear with a strong wind blowing through the wildflowers and tall grass.

He spotted movement out of the corner of his right eye. Seconds passed. Then he saw his prey. His colorful clothes made him an easy target. Avellino starting counting…one…two…three…” as his target ran full-out for the forest.

“Twenty-five!” he shouted while notching the arrow.

The man was almost to the tree line when he let the shaft go. It arched high in the sky and came down into the running man’s back! A couple of seconds went by before the man rose up from the ground, and resumed running!

Cursing, Avellino broke out into a full run towards the forest. If there was one thing that really irritated him, it was a sloppy kill. He prided himself on “clean” kills. He built a reputation on being a one-shot hunter.

It didn’t take long for him to find a blood trail. A drop here, and there, and soon he saw his prey. His was standing next to a tree, one arm leaning against it for support. He was panting heavily, trying to take a full breath of air when he saw Avellino.

There was no fear in his eyes. He stared at Avellino disapprovingly. The men’s eyes locked. Frozen in the moment.

The next morning.

Demonte had a hard time staying focused on the plain. He was wondering why Avellino didn’t come back from his hunt yesterday. Girard was on a two-day drunk and didn’t even miss Avellino at the lodge last night. The guide didn’t seem concerned.

Suddenly his prey popped up in the center of the plain. He made a perfect target with his bright gold chemise, broad white lace collar, and voluminous sleeves. His scarlet breeches contrasted sharply with the gold that now seemed to shine in the sun as he ran for the tree line.

Demonte took his time counting. He watched, fascinated with the bright colors and the pace the man was running at. He was loping along easily. Not running in a panic. His lizard/hunter brain took notice as he notched his arrow and let it fly.

At almost the same time, the man suddenly stopped running! He came to an abrupt halt and looked back at Demonte. The arrow flew over his head by a mere five yards, sinking safely into the grass. This quarry apparently knew something about archery and hunting.

Demonte ran towards the still standing figure. As he got closer the man turned and ran into the forest. Alarm bells were going off in Demonte’s head. He had a bad feeling this wasn’t going to be a one-sided hunt. He slowed down when he got to the tree line and cautiously stepped into the dense forest.

He decided to put the bow over his shoulder and pulled his hunting knife. As he passed a particularly large tree his quarry stepped out while swing a thick tree limb like a club! He caught Demonte on the side of his skull, bashing it in like a pumpkin!

The next day.

Girard woke up from his monumental drunk and packed his bag. It was time to meet up with the guide and to go home. When he arrived at the pre-arranged spot the guide was there waiting. His friends were nowhere to be seen.

“Where Is Avellino and Demonte?” he asked the guide.

“They won’t be leaving. Avellino no longer exists. He killed his own ancestor. The possibility of that happening was in the fine print that I asked if you all read. Whenever a hunter chooses to hunt in the country of their origin they take that chance.

“What about Demonte?” he asked meekly.

“He met up with another hunter from this time period. He was a nobleman known for his passion to hunt. This possibility was also mentioned in your contract. You hunters are always so eager to get on with things you don’t read the fine print. Or else, you do and don’t care.”

“I’m ready to go home now,” an unnerved Girard said.

As It Stands, it’s always that fine print that catches you.