's 2017 Horror Write-off:

The Jackal

Submitted by Jackson Gilbert

Todd's whole neighborhood had been going to shit. The previously gentrified area had started decaying. Innumerable houses had been left destitute, their owners either jailed or moved out, with drug dens, seedy whorehouses, and dog fighting rings taking up shop in them. The house next to Todd was completely sealed off by police tape and boarded up doors. About a month earlier, a number of the neighborhood's richer residents had been discovered to have been in a cult centered around the pleasures of the flesh and a dash of human sacrifice. Todd was the whistleblower on the whole ordeal after the owners, still high from the previous night, buried one of the victims out behind the house in broad daylight. After reporting the incident to the police, the parents of the cultists attacked the company Todd worked at, all but burning it to the ground. Furthermore, his name was tarnished, and he couldn't find a job anywhere else.

One night, Todd was looking out from his back porch when he heard an odd noise in the murderers'backyard. It sounded like something was digging up the ground back there. It was probably one of those damn coyotes again, chewing up what corpses the cops forgot to take away. Todd vaulted the fence between the properties, armed with a couple fireworks and a flashlight. As he got closer, he heard a wet, chewing sound. Todd moved faster. No one deserved to have their bodies eaten by coyotes. Soon, his flashlight shown on the body, and trailed up.

Whatever Todd saw, it was not human. The thing looked a lot like a canine, only five feet tall even when on all fours. It had the forelimbs of a man, and hindlimbs that were similar to a dog's, but not exactly. It had a long, feline tail that gently waved in the air. The beast's spine and ribs both thrust out, with an inhumanly thin gut. Its head was shaped rather like a dog, with a long muzzle. The only difference in shape between the two was the lack of ears and the extra eyes, situated just under the regular ones. All in all, the shape wasn't too odd. However, the hide of the thing was what made it completely unnerving. It's sparse fur was multicolor, almost looking like cloth. The creature had small patches of metal, no more than a few inches long, embedded in its skin, along with plastic, glass, and rubber. Its face was unmistakably human, even though it was stretched along the skull of a monster. It had the same blemishes a man would have, the same general look that made a human, well, human. Its mouth had human teeth in it, and its upper pair of eyes were an indeterminate mix between a large variety of eye colors. The lower pair were deep green gashes, extremely old. Not intelligently old, but bestially, with a tired and experienced gaze. As Todd stared at the thing, he noticed a disturbing similarity between the monster's face and the face of the man it was eating. In fact, it looked more like him the more it ate.

Todd gasped, grabbing the thing's attention. It backed away, multicolored hair raised, and started to growl at him. Todd threw the firecrackers- little poppers, barely emitting anything- and jumped away. The scavenger shrieked, almost like some kind of bird, and scampered into the woods behind the house. Todd ran back into his home, unaware of the firecrackers'effects, and locked every door twice over. That night, he couldn't sleep. He spent the time thinking about what he would do in the morning. The first step was to buy a shotgun.

When Todd woke, he gathered the money he had and went to buy a gun. Unfortunately, he didn't have the proper licensing. Fortunately, one of his neighbors illegally dealt weapons. As Todd walked over, he saw a large crowd of people milling about the middle of the road. In the centre of this group was a pile of viscera and guts, with skin and bones in a separate pile. The group that seemed the most stricken were the dogfighters. That, plus the pieces of collar strewn around, made Todd think one of them had died. Obviously the beast- which Todd had started calling "the Jackal" -killed the man. Todd started walking towards the weapon dealer's hideout, when he almost literally bumped into the man.

"Jameson!" Todd said. The man was engaged in a conversation with one of the drug dealers.

"Whadda ya want?" He growled. Jameson, it appeared, hated being interrupted.

"I, uh, was hoping to discuss some business with you." Todd hoped he was doing this right. His large, circular glasses and reedy thinness did not help with these tough guy conversations.

"Whatever, man. Just gimme a minute."

They walked over to Jameson's hideout, where, in the basement, several gun safes stood.

"Which gun do you want?"

"Your cheapest shotgun. And, uh, how much is that?"

"How much d'ya got?"

Todd scowled, then emptied his pockets of cash.

He walked out with a few boxes of ammunition and a shitty old shotgun. Now it was time to look up what information he could. While the library yielded very little knowledge, he did learn that scavengers were mostly nocturnal, giving him a viable timeframe. Todd felt uneasy going out so unprepared, but this thing needed to die before anyone else got hurt. After all, when was the last time vigilante justice had gone wrong?

After nightfall, Todd started towards the forest. It seemed like the best place for an animal to be. But almost as soon as he got outside, he heard a crashing inside the cultists'former home. Todd pivoted on the spot, and walked to the house. After tearing apart the police tape, he opened the door and walked in.

The top floor was cleaned up nicely, almost masking the smell emanating from the basement. Naturally, that was the first place Todd went. The basement, in stark contrast to the main floor, was a hellhole. Viscera and gore were strewn about. Blood, urine, and less savory body fluids stained the stone floor. White powder was gathered in small clumps on a table, as were numerous needles. As Todd stepped onto the floor, he noticed that the rug he was on seemed to be some sort of leather. Presumably human. There were a number of circles, each with a jar that held a preserved bodily material or organ. A brain, blood, bone fragments, heart, skin, stomach... the list went on. Todd shivered. He turned away and walked upstairs, not wanting to risk his dinner.

Moving close to the edge of the woods, he heard a noise that was like metal being ground up. Todd grinned, and walked a little faster. As he went further south, the grinding got louder and louder. Eventually, he saw it. The Jackal. It was feeding on a piece of broken down machinery- maybe a tractor, from when it used to be farmland?

He turned off his flashlight, readied his shotgun, and slowly crept up to near where the Jackal was. When he was sure the being was going to be hit, he turned on the light. It turned around, surprised, and with a different face. Todd pulled the trigger, pulverizing its chest and spreading bits of glass, metal, and cloth. The Jackal, instead of screaming, made a few, wheezing mewls before dying.

Todd, on the other hand, whooped and yelled. He had done it! The Jackal, scourge of his neighborhood, was dead. No longer would any more lives be taken. Todd was a hero.

"Gotcha, motherfucker!" Todd wished he could've said something cooler.

Todd thought that he would walk around, telling people what he had done. After all, what's the point of a good deed if no one notices it? And besides, it would surely calm them down after the dog fighter's death. Walking up to his neighbor's door, Todd heard something. A deep growl. His face white, Todd turned around.

Behind him was a monster, with strips of pure, alien darkness in it. It stood about eight feet tall, even when on all fours. The thing had eyes all over it, but they did not reflect light, instead absorbing all of it. Somehow, they were visible. The darkness was mesmerizing. It reminded Todd of long dead cosmos he had read in one book or another. In fact, he could almost see tiny pinpricks of light in it. It broke the thing up, making it hard to see. The beast had eyes all over its head, and its jaws yawned open so wide, they practically cleaved the skull in half. It had patches of fur, and the spaces between had leathery, almost scaly skin, from its hungry head to its long, waving tail. The creature had four (or was that five?) powerful legs, well suited for jumping.

And jump they did. Todd was killed and chewed up by the beast. Then, it regurgitated his guts and viscera in one pile, and his bones and skin in the other.

What Todd had briefly learned, then forgotten, on his trip to the library was that scavengers like Jackals rarely killed prey their size. In fact, they often ate from the kills of larger beasts, like Tigers.