"Hungry like the wolf" by Hidden Citizens
That was the second time someone said the strange six letter word; mortal. First it was from the strange actors who said the words, and now, the half-naked woman wandering the beach.
I wondered if the nearby college had a huge frat party or something such. Perhaps all three individuals I encountered had been incredibly wasted. As the young woman walked me farther and farther away from the scene where the men and women were, I finally found my voice.
"Er...thank you for walking me home," I say, partially wondering if perhaps the girl's boyfriend was among the drunken idiots that were now at least five-hundred yards behind us. Maybe she was walking me away from the scene solely because her own boyfriend had been one of the men possibly ready to take advantage of me. Maybe she wanted to defuse the situation before I called the cops.
"Tis not a problem." She said nothing more as the walk continued.
Silence passed for a few moments before I broke it. "I'm going to take a guess one of those lovely hornballs is your boyfriend?" I asked, my disgust not hidden. It was hard to keep my tone in check given what a pig the guy was.
To my vast surprise the young woman giggled. "Boy and friend," she said slowly, shaking her head in amusement. "No. I could tell what those men were thinking. They would have taken advantage of you if I had not come along."
"So you don't know them?"
The girl gave a gentle roll of her slender shoulders but said nothing more. This conversation was getting incredibly odd for me very quickly. The woman no longer seemed interested in talking to me but she continued to walk me home. We walked in silence for a while. As we finally got to the back of my grandparents' house after what seemed like a two-mile walk, a muffled shriek came from far off in the distance. It sounded like it came from where the woman and I had just came from. "What the heck was that?!" I couldn't hide the fear in my voice.
"What was what?" the girl asked, raising an eyebrow at me.
"I swore I just heard someone scream!"
"It is the gathering possibly getting a little more entertaining," she answered casually, watching as I made my way up the stone pathway through the sand to the back of the house. I watched as the woman looked as though she heard nothing out of the ordinary. I felt incredibly strange about the young woman having followed me back, but, there wasn't much to say about the matter. The woman continued to follow me, only seeming satisfied in retreating once I was on the back porch of the large house and no longer content to walk on the beach. "Er...thank you again," I say, very unsure of what to make of this strange night. No more words were exchanged as the young blonde woman appeared to give a strange sort of roll of her bare shoulders.
Just then, the lights on the front porch bolted on while the door whipped open violently. "Gabi!" Sam called angrily. "What the hell! Do you have any idea how long I've been waiting for you??"
"Take a chill pill, Sammy," I scolded. Little did my big brother know he was embarrassing himself in front of someone. "She was just walking me home," I mutter before nodding my head behind me where the girl is standing.
Sam looked perplexed at this information before gently shrugging. "Gabs, who you talking about?" Looking around in wonder I found my female savior was no longer beside me. Glancing down the lake front, I found she wasn't anywhere in sight.
I didn't tell Sam what happened on the beach with the men. I figured it would have just worried him and then with my bad luck he'd have to play big brother and either go down the beach to confront the guys, or, call the police. Another run-in with sheriff overweight was the very last thing I wanted to do to ring in my first day back in Kenosha. Considering it was my own stupidity of walking alone that caused the run in to happen, I figured it would just be best to not mention what happened at all.
The strangest part of the night was trying to figure out how the girl vanished so quickly. I realized the beach front at night was plenty dark, making it perfectly plausible I just couldn't see the girl walking away. Still, it felt odd. Something didn't sit well with me regarding it and I had no idea as to why that was.
The very worst part of living with Walter and Diane Ruffalo became obvious that night; they were always lurking. I could not find a moment to hideaway given one or both of my grandparents came to constantly check up on how I was doing. They were casual about it and nice enough while seeming genuinely interested in my well-being. Still, it was suffocating.
They hovered more than ghosts probably did. That night I strongly suspected Walter witnessing our argument in the store was what was propelling Diane to bring me a plate of freshly made cookies and her wanting to talk about my feelings. I could see my grandmother was looking for me to open up and talk to her about what was bothering me. But little did she know the state of Wisconsin had a better chance of it never snowing again.
Caring and sharing just wasn't how I rolled. I disliked opening up to people while simultaneously disliking caring about anyone. To me such a thing just meant providing someone with an easier way of letting you down.
When I was thirteen I told my father I missed having him. He was always traveling out of state or sometimes the country. William then signed me up for therapy to help me deal with my 'clinginess.' That was one of the experiences in life that taught me the only way someone could let you down was if you let them. Nowadays I simply felt that if I never let anyone in then no one could ever hurt me.
But maybe that was why I didn't have real friends, the voice in the back of my mind spoke. Since arriving in Wisconsin my texts to friends back home have gone ignored or responded to with one or two-word responses.
The next day for me was mostly spent unpacking my suitcases and cleaning my new habitat. I organized my clothes into a very large weathered dresser against the wall on the far side of the room. Using the vacuum -after first asking my grandpa to eliminate all still-alive arachnids- I cleaned out all the dust bunnies and cobwebs. I swept and then mopped the floors with pine smelling cleaner to give the room a fresher scent. By the time I was finished I made sure to pull back the curtains to give the gloomy room more sun. It was a pretty room once daylight was shining in. It caused me to half wonder if my grandparents would allow me to paint the dusty bright lavender colored walls a pretty mint green instead.
Eventually I went to the bed and flopped myself down while determined to make at least one friend back in North Carolina reply back to my text messages. But it was useless. When you hung out with the popular kids you always needed to pull off something grand for them to keep wanting you around. Moving across the county and no longer throwing crazy house parties meant I could kiss all my former popularity goodbye.
With the exception of a few smiley emoji's and lol's my conversations with three different friends died off once it was discovered I was in Kenosha for the entire summer. No one wanted to be friends with the girl who wasn't around to share her mansion.
"I hate people," I said to no one in particular. Pele's formerly sleeping head popped up. He gave a small bark before the doorbell rang downstairs. Boredom propelled me to get up from my new bed. I walked into the large bathroom connected to my room before looking out the window. I found a police cruiser parked in front of the house. After I had to playfully beat Pele down the stairs in an impromptu race I had a little bit of walking distance to make until I heard my grandmother conversing with someone familiar. It was the overweight sheriff from the day before.
"My God, I can't believe it...A double homicide right down the beach," Diane breathed, tsking under her breath. "That's positively horrible. Would you like a sugar cube?" She questioned, soon bustling around the kitchen as I came into view. I remembered this was typical behavior of my grandmother. Whatever the horrible matter she was conversing about she always offered food or drink to go along with the conversation. It was the Italian in her. I had strong memories of my mother's funeral being filled with an overwhelming amount of cakes, cookies, and other desserts to go along with the occasion. The worse off my grandmother felt the more food was provided at a sad event. Judging by the large plates of bacon, eggs, and cinnamon rolls, something sad must have been discussed for her to overcook.
"No no, black is great," a familiar voice sighed. "My thoughts exactly, though. Now the feds are going to be up here investigating the disappearance of the third man. You haven't seen anything odd on the beach, right? First, we had reports about all the bulbs breaking on the overhead lights, and now this." Chief Marshall of the KPD was sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee out of one of Diane's blue and red checkered mugs.
My mind momentarily wandered back to the time my grandmother once happily bragged that I would be inheriting all her fine china. At that time I was over the moon I would inheriting something so beautiful. I would imagine all the tea parties, fancy dinners, and all the times I would use the mugs and drink coffee like the grownups did. The older I became was the more I obsessed with having money and nicer things rather than family relics. As I watched the mugs momentarily I lost myself in thinking how I found I liked the nine-year-old version of myself a lot more than the person I was today. Or maybe that was just nostalgia.
Being back in Kenosha reminded me of the girl I used to be; a kinder, more caring person. I used to be a lot like Sam. With time I grew bitter and resentful over the crummy cards fate dealt along with having a dead mom and an absentee dad. Maybe that was why I had such a nasty demeanor nowadays. Or maybe, I was just always destined to be a bitch. Who could really tell?
"Gabi was downtown, yesterday," Diane recalled, stirring creamer into her own mug. "Now I'll never let her out of my sight again!"
She and Chief Marshall couldn't see I was standing in the doorway. I rolled my eyes at the thought of more smothering from Diane. That was the last thing I wanted. One more bear hug would surely suffocate me.
"The good news is the murders seem to be revolving around males specifically," the sheriff said bitterly.
"That doesn't make me feel any better."
"I understand, I understand," the chief said with sympathy." It's not like I want any of this chaos in our town either. Last thing a nice place like Kenosha needs is mob-inspired hits. Tourism will go down..."
"I didn't ask, are these more locals?" said Diane, tapping her spoon against the rim of her mug.
"I'mnot at liberty to say," the older sheriff murmured, brushing coffee-cake crumbsoff his walrus-like mustache. "All I know is those young men were havin' abonfire on the beach last night when all hell seemed to have broken loose." My expression fell flat hearing that last part. The old sheriff wasn't done withhis reveal. "Whatever the hell happened out there, it's just like the others, Di."
My grandmother pursed her paper-thin lips. "But could they still be alive,Dale?"
"Definitely not. There's too much blood and..." the chief shuffled uncomfortablyin his seat.
"For heavens sakes! I've known you and Cynthia for almost three decades. You know I won't be tellin' anyone what you tell me."
The chief grimaced. He lowered his voice to a whisper that I still managed tohear. "There's was too much blood and scraps left for them not to be dead."
My grandmother paled. "What do you mean scraps??"
"The pieces left behind are so mangled it looks like bits of hamburger leftbehind."
YOU ARE READING
The Hunters of Artemis: A Siren's CallHorror
Sixteen-year-old Gabi Parker expects nothing exciting when she and her older brother move to the lake-side town of Kenosha, Wisconsin for the summer. It is soon discovered the lovely town has a strange habit of young men turning up dead in a grisly...