“It must have left or escaped” said Andre.
“Why would it leave?” asked Pablo.
“I asked around. It’s not here. My goats are fine. So are Chilo’s and Angelo’s. ?We are the only ones who were affected. The last person before us who was affected was Gonzalo but his fields are more than 10 miles away” replied Andre.
“But why would it leave?” asked Pablo again.
“I don’t know senor, but it’s not here. It’s been weeks since I lost a single animal. It’s not here anymore. Maybe it’s moved on.”
* ? ?* ? ? *
It had moved on but in a most curious fashion. The creature being mentioned is La Chupacabra and La Chupacabra is a hunter and a deadly one at that. It is more patient than a Venus fly trap, more cunning than a fox and more vicious than a wolf. It eats goats. First it lures its prey in; it can mimic the scent and sounds of a stray female goat. The male who has strayed too far wanders away from the rest filled with romantic ardour. It searches for its mate-to-be and follows its nose and its ears. The male goat wants only one thing.
La Chupacabra is more careful than the billy goat would imagine, he moves away from his original spot and takes up a striking pose nearby. La Chupacabra knows it is not very strong and one swift kick form the goat’s hooves or one headbutt from the goat’s horns would render it helpless. So it waits patiently, it poises to strike. Its only weapons are its jaws filled with razor sharp teeth and an iron grip. Its only way to feast upon the goat is by waiting for the right moment to strike.
On that day, it was La Chupacabra who made all the right moves. It mimicked the sound and hid in the shadows. La Chupacabra shifted position quickly. It rubbed its scent on tree bark that would carry downwind to the unsuspecting goat. It waited while the goat made its way into the forest. From the blissfully ignorant grazing that was happening just moments ago, this goat would serve to suffice La Chupacabra. But something happened, a new scent appeared. A human scent but it was not of the man who tended to the goats. It was something else or rather, someone else. Someone who smelled of the forest, the smell of leaves and berries mingling with human scent made its way to La Chupacabra’s nostrils. It crouched low and waited in shadow.
Then through the air movement! A spear flashed forth from the shrubbery impaling the goat’s hindquarters. The goat bleated in agony and tried to make an escape but its hind legs failed it. It could not move quickly. Then, as quickly as the spear had darted out, a human darted out, it was covered in leaves strung together and had paint all over its body. La Chupacabra had viewed most humans as dressed in clothes and having smells of firewood and soap but this one was different, it smelled not unlike the forest itself. It was a curious sight, this human leaping forward upon La Chupacabra’s prey and cutting its throat with some crude instrument. The bleating presently stopped and the goat was one with the dead.
The man held the goat upside down and let the blood drain out. He put the goat around his shoulders and began to carry it off. La Chupacabra would not stand for this. It saw the spear and feared the power of one who could kill from a distance but this was an injustice that the goat eater would not bear. It had worked to draw the prey in only to have it stolen away by a human. So La Chupacabra followed the odd man.
After following him and from a distance, La Chupacabra eventually saw the man come to a clearing. Others were there like him who lived in houses made of dried grass and held together with fibres. A fire burned in the center. Children ran around the area. This was a tribe and La Chupacabra was near tribal ground. It would not go any closer.
La Chupacabra’s eyes remained on the man holding the goat. The man called out to some other tribal members who followed him now. La Chupacabra followed as 3 other men dressed like the man who held the goat walked away from the tribal village and further into the forest.
They trekked for almost 2 kilometres. La Chupacabra followed them, it watched them. Those eyes watched the goat and grew hungry everytime it caught a whiff of its stolen meal. Then the forest ended, the smells coming from ahead changed. The ground started to slope down and then there was no trees and no vegetation, instead there was sand and beyond the sand was water.
The tribesmen had come to a beach. La Chupacabra waited in the shadows of the trees, not daring to reveal itself even though the goat moved further and further away. The tribesmen carried the goat and presented it to another group of men. These men wore clothes and armour and had swords. They took the goat and gave the tribesmen swords, shovels, matches and candles. They showed them how the swords cut through things, how the shovels moved earth and how the matches lit the candles. The tribesmen were happy and took their loot back.
La Chupacabra did not follow the tribesmen. It saw them load this goat onto a rowboat where 5 other goats had already been slain. The three men got in, pushed the boat off the shore and began to row back to the main ship which was anchored away from the shore. La Chupacabra waited and watched.
* ? ?* ? ? *
Night soon fell and the darkness gave La Chupacabra the chance to venture out onto the sand. The grainy texture felt strange to its feet but it didn’t bother as it went out farther to the salty sea and began to swim towards the ship. It swam and then reached onto the hull. It climbed upward, its small claws gripping the wood with ease, it made its way to the deck and then smelled the floor for goat. The creatures were dumped nearby and then dragged towards a doorway, then down some stairs and thrown into a room. Nobody was awake on deck. La Chupacabra moved as quietly and as stealthily as it would in a forest. It followed the smell down to one room where the goats were kept. It was a dark room with plenty of barrels in it and two port holes. The goats were kept in a pile on some cloth. They were already skinned, portioned and salted.
La Chupacabra jumped onto one of the portions and began devouring it. It did this and then hid among the barrels and went to sleep.
* ? ?* ? ? *
Days passed like this. La Chupacabra would eat and drink from one of the barrels kept in the dark storeroom. It knew better than to make any sounds. It kept itself hidden from view and heard fights about how meat went missing and crewmates were suspected. It felt queasy from the rocking ship but it could bear it.
Then a fierce storm came upon the boat. ?On deck, the first mate shouted to the captain, “We’re going off course, Captain.”
“We have to” replied the Captain.
“Because if we try to steer against these winds we’ll be destroyed.”
“But Captain, do you know where we will end up?”
“Yes, New Zealand.”
* ? ?* ? ? *
Two days later, land was sighted.
La Chupacabra heard the call of a seagull, it knew that it had to escape, all the goat portions were gone by now. It was either of choice of death by starvation or escaping into the great unknown to see what other death might be out there for it.
Instinct voted for the great unknown along with its stomach also crying out for anything but starvation. Its mind however told its body to wait until nightfall. It would escape under the cover of darkness.
When darkness fell and silence descended upon the seafaring vessel, nobody noticed the stealthy figure of La Chupacabra creep up the deck and jump into the water. A small splash was heard by one crewman but by the time he did a headcount and went to look at the ocean, all he could see was the silvery movement of the waves in the water reflecting the moon.
* ? ?* ? ? *
Farmer John was happy, for the most part. His full name was John Wilkins but at his ripe, old age of 72, he was known as Farmer John to everybody. He had two children, a son and a daughter. His son had gone to work in the city and his daughter had gotten married to an Australian man and lived in Brisbane now. His wife had passed away a year ago and now all he had were the young men who would help on the farm. The most trusted man of all these was Harry Key, his primary shepherd.
One day, Harry came to Farmer John with disturbing news.
“Good morning Farmer John.”
“Good morning Harry, having a nice day?”
“Yes sir but I’m afraid I have bad news.”
“What is it?”
“I found one of the sheep lying a-ways from the eastern cliff. It looked like some wild animal got to it.”
“Wild animal? It isn’t a wild animal, it’s that damn property firm. They’re trying to get me to sell my land. Well, I won’t give in.”
“I don’t know” said Harry “It could be them but the poor sheep was all ripped up and there was blood everywhere. Doesn’t it seem a bit too drastic?”
“They’re getting desperate, son, and they don’t want to give me any extra. Figure it out, this way, I’ll settle for less if I get spooked but I’m not going to let them take what’s mine.”
“Alright but I don’t think that this is them.”
“Son, when you get to my age, you’ll have seen the hearts of men possessed by greed and the evil that it can hold.”
“Farmer John, have you been drinking?” asked Harry glancing at the bottle of whisky that sat on the table, the cap of the bottle beside it.
“Don’t be such a Wellington boy. It’s the weekend” said Farmer John happily raising a glass filled with the amber liquid diluted with water.
“It’s 11 o’ clock and it’s Thursday” said Harry matter-of-factly.
“Close enough.” Saying so, Farmer John took a swig.
* ? ?* ? ? *
The meat was not so different to its primal taste buds but much of the wool had to be ripped away before La Chupacabra could eat. Sheep were not as easy to trap as goats as the sheep were immune to the sounds and the smells that caused goats to come so easily. ?After 3 days of not having any food, La Chupacabra had relished the meat. All this hunger had caused La Chupacabra to approach its target in a different fashion. ?Instead of waiting for its prey to come to itself, it went upon the prey. Slowly sneaking, it approached the sheep asleep in a paddock. Smelling the air, it picked a target furthest away from the rest and went for the throat but rather than simply killing it there and eating, La Chupacabra chose to break the throat without spilling any blood and then dragged the body off far downhill and in a ravine to eat and feast.
?* ? ?* ? ? *
The office of J.P. Goodfoot did not expect this.
Farmer John had visited but was in a pleasant mood.
“Listen James, I knew your father” said Farmer John “He was a good man and he did honest business but most importantly, he understood the difference between a no and a yes.”
James looked him in the eye, “Farmer John, what in the name of the Almighty, are you talking about?”
“Oh, playing dumb, eh? That trick won’t work on me. You’re trying to make me look stupid and I’m not falling for it.”
“Farmer John, I feel pretty stupid right now but please, feel free to show me the light.” James was a businessman and held his poker face. Maybe James hoped that if he showed no fear, Farmer John would respect that, if not now then maybe later.
“Listen, I’m telling you right now. A no is a no and leave my sheep alone or you’ll be hearing from me again. Good day to ya.”
* ? ?* ? ? *
“I met with Goodfoot’s son today” said Farmer John to Harry.
“Did you now?”
“Yep, gave him a piece of my mind. Would have given him more if Johnny here hadn’t helped” said Farmer John revealing a bottle of whisky.
“Ha ha. You know, I’m usually against swilling the stuff earlier but I’ve seen your temper so if Johnny there” Harry said, pointing to the whisky bottle “is helping you keep yourself in check. Then I’m ok with it.”
“See, son, when you get to my age, you know yourself well enough to know what you can handle, what you can’t and you learn one more thing.”
“What’s that?” asked Harry.
“It tastes better from a bottle than from a glass.”
* ? ?* ? ? *
La Chupacabra knew it was far away from home. It searched for more food. It searched for food it was used to. Though it understood that it was far away from home, La Chupacabra hoped that more searching would reveal a variety of goat found in this new place. The terrain was not something La Chupacabra was used to. There forests it roamed around in had only birds living in it. The squaking, chirping and tweeting made La Chupacabra feel all the more nervous. It edged around trees carefully at first but the ground was almost free from movement. La Chupacabra started to relax. No animals scent could be caught even when it was downwind. Suddenly La Chupacabra felt very alone and despite being isolated, at moments, it felt watched and even hid when a small flightless bird made its way out of a bush and into another.
The darkness bred insecurity within La Chupacabra. It was far from home and a day of searching had proved fruitless. It made its way back to the ravine and ate more of the sheep before settling down to sleep under a ledge. It wasn’t hunger but La Chupacabra felt uneasy as this was a new kind of emptiness it was feeling.
* ? ?* ? ? *
“Did you hear from Jonie?” asked Harry
“She sent me a letter. You know, she worries about you sometimes” said Harry.
Farmer John looked at the fireplace “Why is she worried about me?”
“She thinks that you drink too much since Anne died. She wants to know if you’re doing your life properly. The way a grandpa should.”
Farmer John looked at Harry “You mean she’s going to have a baby?”
“Gosh. I mean, this is some news eh. How come she didn’t tell me directly?”
“I don’t know. Have you looked in your mailbox lately?”
“No” The truth was that Farmer John never really thought anybody wrote to him anymore. He had resigned his children to be lost to the world and free to live their own lives. The thought of them still having a connection to him brought forth a pain he had long buried.
“You should. I remember Jonie would mail everybody concerned. She’d personalise all her mails too. You’ve raised a good kid, Farmer John, you’d better believe it.”
* ? ?* ? ? *
Farmer John was going to be a grandfather. Most men, would take this as a good sign but he took it as panic at first. He knew that he should have taken this as an opportunity to start drinking less but instead, he decided to celebrate with a drink. Harry was still around and maybe his only real friend now. So Harry didn’t mind having a few drinks with him. Then Harry left but after he was gone, Farmer John just kept on nursing his drinks.
In front of the fireplace was where the family would unwrap their Christmas presents. Jonie was always the first one there. When she was 6 years old, she slept on the rug in front of the fireplace. When Farmer John and his wife woke up to see their daughter asleep on the rug on Christmas morning, they were surprised but decided to ask her why she did such a thing. Jonie, in all her innocence said “Because I want to thank Santa Claus, if all the other kids are asleep when he gives them their presents, they don’t get to say thank you. I wanted to say thank you.”
Farmer John’s eyes now became moist at the thought. That moment in his life was one he would describe as absolute perfection. It was that moment when nothing mattered and he felt happy to be alive, it was a time when there were no problems and everything was perfect even if for just that one moment.
But Farmer John learnt that moments pass and memories fade. It was this one memory of happiness that he hold closer than all the others. It was this one moment that cut through all the sadness and all the bitter times. But then he remembered that Anne would never get to see her first grandchild and that made him sad again. He sighed deeply, “This one’s for you, my love.” So saying, he lifted his glass and knocked back the whole peg.
* ? ?* ? ? *
La Chupacabra knew that it must eat. The paddock was so easy to get to. It would have to do this. It also realized that it must get off the island where it was, it had to find a way home. No, it had to stay and eat the different meat. The meat was easy to reach, the sheep were easy to pick off, no humans had been sighted, this would be comfortable.
Such contrasting emotions were felt by La Chupacabra. It wanted goat like a need, like an obsession that one cannot live without. Goat, it craved the sweet, succulent meat, it craved the thrill of the trap and the hunt. The danger, the excitement were what it lived for. La Chupacabra’s cunning seemed to count for naught here in this vast, hilly terrain where few creatures dwelled and hiding was unnecessary.
La Chupacabra made its way back to the paddock in the dead of night. It used the same technique as before but it did not drag it back to the same location, it simply dragged the sheep over to the road and ate. It ate to its hearts content. It tore at the meat. Teeth ripping skin from flesh and flesh from bone. Wool being torn to shreds and stained crimson with blood. La Chupacabra ate in the open, a new feeling. It felt free and safe. A master in this domain to do as it pleased.
* ? ?* ? ? *
“Harry, what the hell is this?”
Harry looked at the bloody carcass in front of him. Most of the meat had been torn out savagely. What was once white fleece was now a patchwork of crimson and white, flies buzzed near the mouth and eyes of the dead sheep. Its tongue lolled out of its throat that was crushed and broken. Its neck area had bones that almost protruded through the skin to form a twisted mess. Its head had been turned backwards and pointed towards the gate of Farmer John.
“Sweet Jesus, Farmer John. That’s downright vile. It looks like another animal attack.”
“Animal attack? Harry, are you trying to piss me off? There aren’t any wolves or coyotes or foxes or none of that nonsense here. The only animal is J.P. Goodfoot. I’m going to let him know that these scare tactics aren’t going to work on me.”
“Now Farmer John, relax,, you don’t know who’s really behind this. I think you should clam down.”
“Calm down? Harry, you’ve been helping the raise these livestock the way I taught you. They are like our children but this is a business at the end of the day and I won’t let J.P. Goodfoot ruin my business to help make his better.”
“Alright but I think you should warn him first, you know. Say things straight and as they are. Chances are it might be somebody else and you’ll look the fool over here” said Harry trying his best to play devil’s advocate without taking sides.
“Listen Harry, you do your job and I’ll do mine.”
* ? ?* ? ? *
J.P. Goodfoot was in the process of rethinking his strategy to negotiate with Farmer John for his land. He had spent the past few days looking at alternative properties where Farmer John would not have to give up his farm life. But he would have to give up his currents farm location.
It was when J.P. Goodfoot was looking over the papers of other properties up for sale that Farmer John stormed into his office.
“You. I am sick and tired of your dirty games” said Farmer John.
J.P. looked nervous, almost as if caught in the act. He swiped the papers into a drawer on his desk.
“John Wilkins. What a pleasant surprise.” J.P. smelled alcohol on Farmer John’s breath.
“Yeah, guess what, I was surprised. I was surprised that you would try the same thing twice. And you have some gall, leaving my sheep all bloodied in front of my own property. Have you no shame? Have you no respect?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh don’t play dumb with me. It was either you or somebody you hired to kill my poor sheep and leave it in front of my property. It wasn’t enough to kill one, you had to get two, eh? Even after I warned you? Farmer John’s voice had risen.
J.P. Goodfoot had been sitting in his chair all this while but he stood up and looked the farmer straight in the face “Listen, John, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I haven’t been near your farm in more than a month. You remember the last time I came there.
Ask my family where I was last night or on the night you say your first sheep went missing. Go on. Or ask my secretary for all the people I’ve talked to. I haven’t met any goons. I’ve not left my office for a week. I’ve even had lunch here. If you don’t believe me, you can ask them. Ask anybody, go on, I dare you. Ask them.”
Farmer John was speechless. He glared at the man in front of him. Farmer John’s face was a flushed red. But even through the alcohol haze, he was prepared for this.
“Fine” said Farmer John. He started to walk out towards the door “You’ve been to my farm, Mr. Goodfoot, today I changed the sign that says ?Private Property. Do not trespass’ to ?Private Property. Trespassers will be shot’ Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my hands on a gun. Consider this your final warning.” And Farmer John walked out the door.
* ? ?* ? ? *
La Chupacabra was moving again. It had only moved in one direction, now it moved in another. It followed a stream that trickled down from the mountains. When La Chupacabra had dried to drink, the water was very cold and very clean. It could not put its face down to the water and lap gulps of water as it did in South America, here it had to slowly sip the water, taking in just enough to warm the liquid in its mouth before swallowing. It was refreshing but it was not the sort of thing one could bathe in. Not in this place where the weather was not warm and sticky. Any water that clung to its skin felt the cold more pronounced when the winds that came and went intermittently blew upon it. It learnt this the first day when it came from the ocean to the land.
It had been 4 days now. La Chupacabra had eaten one day and searched the next. It would be the only creature leaving its scent upon the ground and on the trees so it was easy to make its way back.
Its instincts spoke to it like a ghost that possessed a soul but lacked the ability to control. Its instincts came like suggestions.
Search. Search. Find.
Search goat. Search creatures. Study land.
No smell. No other creatures. Alone. Alone. No fear.
Bird. There, bird runs on ground. Bird there, in the air, bird flies. Birds on tress. Making noise.
No other creatures. Must be other creatures. Search. Search. Find. You will find. Need to search. Find goat. Find proper food.
No hunger now but need to search. No thirst now but need to search. To find way back to other creatures is easy.
Killing other creatures is easy. Search now. Can search longer. No other creatures to stop from eating food creatures. Food creatures that has thick fur.
Search more. Will find. Just search.
And so La Chupacabra spent more time walking up and down the hills and valleys. The noises of birds and the crackle of twigs were the only sounds to keep it company during its quest.
* ? ?* ? ? *
Farmer John wanted a shotgun. Shotguns don’t need to people to be too accurate the way a rifle does. Shotguns just needed to be pointed in the general direction of a target and the trigger had to be pulled.
And somebody could be dead. Just like that. But Farmer John knew that whoever it was would have it coming.
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