The depths of Dutchman’s Hole were bleak, but J.T. Grimes felt comfortable. Days flowed into weeks in his new dwelling and he knew he was home, a bat cozied in the dank recesses of its cave. But he was hungry. Crawdads and the occasional shad could never hope to satisfy his cravings. He needed more. And he could sense a meal lurking nearby.
Navigating the chill water was easy, natural to J.T. as crying to an infant. He crested the pool’s surface slow and serene like, letting his eyes adjust to the dreary fall morning. Rusty red leaves covered the earth surrounding the shore–some must have drifted into the creek above, as they now floated down to the body of black water with sly speed, tearing to shreds in the swollen waterfall’s wake.
A Peterbuilt was visible off the side of the gravel road, its headlights cutting through dark morning fog. It was barren, probably on its way up the mountain for a load of fresh fir logs desired by one of the local mills. Vague hints of shit wafted through the air. The driver was squatting nearby then. J.T.’s stomach growled beneath as ringlets stretched out from the fall’s landing and lapped his brow.
Bare feet slipped over moss covered stones in silence. Scaling the rock outcrop, he took on the full brunt of the chute and slithered into the creek above, a snake in human form. The Peterbuilt’s driver crouched by the bank around the nearest bend, dispelling an egg scramble his wife had carefully prepared during the second hour of this new day. The man was busy ripping off the chest pocket of his hickory shirt–material suitable for filing the paperwork–when J.T. resurfaced, rock in hand.
It was a smooth rock. The creek had spent thousands of years pressuring it into a slender slab, perfect for skipping. J.T. was almost tempted to thrust it up stream, letting it hop over the muddy water until it sunk or found land. He had been a relative Randy Johnson when it came to rock skipping in his former life. That was before he drove his rig over the Alkali Bridge and into the Milkwood River, before he became intimate with the dark forces of the watershed. He was different now.
He raised the rock high in the air, rather than behind his back for a side armed skipping sling. The squatter was completely unsuspecting, so J.T. paused. Where was the fun in that? His thirst for horror outweighed his immediate hunger for flesh. He coughed. The man craned his neck.
Words were halted there. The truck driver froze, incapable of movement with terror gripping him like unforgiving vice jaws. J.T. smiled, flashing rotten teeth, maintaining eye contact, as he stooped down to take hold of a warm hand. What a sight he must be! A pale, naked, frozen figure from the depths of Alkali County’s darkest pit.
He bit off a finger. A golden band was fixed round it. The rock remained a stranger to the paralyzed man’s skull while J.T. busied himself with munching. It was like a carrot, the finger, only sweeter–crunchier. He took his time with it, spitting the band onto the sand strewn bank when the marrow and flesh and blood had finished making their journey down his eager throat.
Only then did J.T. strike the man. Even then, he did so in a way as to knock him out, rather than kill. The poor soul awoke only when the icy water of Dutchman’s Hole had fully enveloped him. J.T. took his time dragging the struggling body down to the bottom. It was hefty–soft from soda pop and potato chips and egg scrambles that make for tender eating. J.T. curled his lips in a thin smile, thinking of the weeks ahead. This stranger’s flesh would be carefully preserved in the frosty bowels of his residence.
Ian Patt is an emerging writer whose work has been featured in Sheepshead Review.