Bogleech.com's 2019 Horror Write-off:
Submitted by Cameron Rhode Kil Fetter (email)
Once upon a time, Father lived in a quaint one-room cabin with his three sons. The cabin was nestled in a dark and dreadful wood, encroached upon by skeletal trees. Each night a peculiar cold mist crawled its way out of the deeper reaches of the forest, and tonight was no different.
Inside the cabin, safe from the advancing fog, Father twiddled his thumbs and rocked his chair. He glanced around the room at his sons. He was proud of them. They were growing into fine young men, as eighteen-year-old boys tend to do.
Arnold sat at the cabin’s single table, pushing around the fragments of a fifty-piece jigsaw puzzle. He hadn’t managed to connect any of the pieces quite yet, but Father was sure he would get there someday.
Michael was splayed out across the cabin’s single carpet, reading the first page of a thirty-page book. He had read this page almost sixty times over the past week. He was getting rather close to understanding it, or at least that was what he told his brothers every morning at breakfast.
Gregory stood at the cabin’s single window, gazing at nothing. He had one of those stares that could kill a small animal. It was transfixing, reader. Eye contact with Gregory made you doubt there was anything inside his head: his skull could have been nothing but a hunk of solid, primal bone.
Father’s stomach moaned and he clutched his beard with concern. “Sons,” he cried, “to me!”
Arnold, Michael, and Gregory crowded around their Father.
“What is it, Father?” asked Arnold.
“Is it dinner time?” asked Michael.
Gregory just looked.
Father sighed. He untwiddled his thumbs and unrocked his chair. He patted his sons’ hands anxiously.
“Yes and no. See, my boys, it is dinner time. But, I’m afraid we are completely out of food.”
Arnold and Michael gasped in shock. They looked at each other in confusion, then looked at Gregory. Gregory looked at them.
Father interrupted their looks. “Cluster in, sons. It’s time for you to leave your childhood behind.”
Father reached below his chair and retrieved a burnished bronze lockbox. It shined in the way that only something very old can shine. You know the shine, reader. Father placed the box upon his lap and, with an arthritic hand, began to fish in his beard. His eyes lit up and out of the beard he pulled an ornate key.
The key fit into the box’s keyhole like they were made for each other, which they of course were. With a half turn of Father’s wrist, the lockbox clicked open, unleashing a silver glow upon the room. The metallic light danced upon the sons’ faces as their mouths fell open with joy.
“Guns…!” exclaimed Arnold and Michael in unison.
“That’s right,” replied Father, “guns. My brothers and I hunted with these guns when I was your age, and so did your grandfather and his brothers, and so on…”
“Oh boy!” whooped Arnold. “Hunting!” And he reached his hand out to snatch a gun from the lockbox. But Father, not done with his speech, thwarted the boy’s advance with a well-timed smack.
“Patience!” blustered Father. “These are sacred family heirlooms. I must pass them on as such. Today is the day you earn your family nicknames.”
Father’s hands hovered above the guns in the box. They were so sacred he felt as if he dare not touch them. But he had to, reader. It was the ceremony. He clutched the first gun and held it in the air exultantly.
“I hereby bequeath this firearm to my first son, Bad-Aim Arnold.”
Bad-Aim Arnold grabbed the gun from his Father, ecstatic. He showed it off to his brothers. Michael’s eyes widened in awe. Gregory looked at it.
“Me next! Me next!” chanted Michael, vibrating uncontrollably at the prospect of his first nickname.
Father retrieved the second gun from the box. It shined as brightly as the first.
“Very well. I hereby bequeath this firearm to my second son, Can’t-Shoot-A-Gun Michael.”
Can’t-Shoot-A-Gun Michael took the gun from his Father and danced about the room, filled with glee. Bad-Aim Arnold joined him and they whirled around, chasing each other through the cabin, brandishing their weapons like new toys.
Gregory looked at Father. Father pulled the final gun out of the box. It was a gnarled thing, seeming to swallow light rather than reflecting it, like negative space forged into some kind of black metal. Gregory looked at the gun, and the faintest smile played across his long-dormant mouth.
“I hereby bequeath this firearm to my third son,” Father said, “Headshot Gregory.”
Headshot Gregory took the gun from his Father. It fit in his hand like a hand in a glove. You know the feeling, reader.
Father snapped his fingers and his three sons stood to attention.
“Now get out there, my boys, and bring Father home some meat.”
Miasmatic tongues lapped at the heels of the three boys as they wandered aimlessly through the dark wood. Not much lived here, but Father had told them to bring home meat, and they would keep searching until they found it.
Bad-Aim Arnold and Can’t-Shoot-A-Gun Michael sang walking songs as they tramped through the thick undergrowth. The snapping of branches and twigs served as irregular percussion to their belted rhymes.
But then came another series of snaps further up ahead. Headshot Gregory’s eyes widened and he grabbed his brothers by the collars of their shirts, pulling them forward into a clearing.
There, in the center of the glade, stood a lone deer, framed invitingly against the gloomy trees. Headshot Gregory thrust forward an urgent finger at the deer, which froze, seeming to welcome its demise with open arms.
“Quick!” hissed Can’t-Shoot-A-Gun Michael to Bad-Aim Arnold. “Shoot it!”
Bad-Aim Arnold pointed his gun at the deer. He closed one eye. He looked at the deer. He moved the gun around a little bit. Then, he pointed the gun straight up in the air and fired off six shots.
“Drat!” cried Bad-Aim Arnold. “I missed it! Curse my bad aim!”
The deer cocked its head at the thunderous sound but didn’t move. Headshot Gregory elbowed Can’t-Shoot-A-Gun Michael hard in the ribs.
“Your turn, Can’t-Shoot-A-Gun Michael!” yelled Bad-Aim Arnold. “Shoot the deer! Get ‘im!”
“Right!” grinned Can’t-Shoot-A-Gun Michael. He pointed his gun at the deer. He looked at the deer. Then he looked at the gun. He began to sweat. He looked at the gun again.
“What are you waiting for? Shoot!” shouted Bad-Aim Arnold.
“Um… Um… Um…” Can’t-Shoot-A-Gun Michael looked at the deer again. He sweated more, then looked at the gun again. Taking the gun in both hands, he snapped it in half, rendering it useless. “Seems like the gun isn’t working.”
The deer took one step forward. Whatever moonlight spell had kept it immobilized was clearly wearing off.
Bad-Aim Arnold and Can’t-Shoot-A-Gun Michael slowly turned to Headshot Gregory.
“Your turn, Headshot Gregory!”
“You got this.”
“Come on, Headshot Gregory.”
“Take the shot!”
Headshot Gregory aimed the gun with razor focus as his two brothers chanted his name.
Headshot Gregory stirred a pot on the cabin’s single stove. It bubbled pleasantly. Father placed the three guns back in the lockbox and returned the key to his beard.
“Good work, Headshot Gregory!” Father patted him on the back. “Now we have enough meat to last us for months!”
Father slid the lockbox back under his chair. He sat in his chair. He twiddled his thumbs and rocked his chair. Headshot Gregory took a platter out of the cabin’s single oven and skewered a piece of meat with a serving fork.
Father beamed across the room at him. “And two less mouths to feed!”
Headshot Gregory took a big bite of meat.
And reader, it was a human foot.