Chapter Six, by Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
Rady opened his eyes in the dark. That was all right, though, ’cause Rady liked the dark. He could see real good but other folks couldn’t see him much at all. Their eyes was weak. He lay still and listened to the house above him. Other folks’ ears was about useless, too. Flat to their heads just like their noses. Couldn’t hear him comin’ and couldn’t hardly smell him till he was on ‘em. Rady grinned all alone in the dark. He liked that, too.
Rady’s stomach gurgled. He was hungry. It was long past time for Granddaddy and Jimmy to feed him. Rady did not like to wait. Bad things happened when Rady got hungry and had to wait. A scared squeak of the cellar steps and the thud of the lock turning and Jimmy stood framed in the doorway.
Alone. No Granddaddy.
“Rady? I come to feed you.” Jimmy held up the lamp with an unsteady hand, sending wavering rays of light poking frightened fingers into the darkness of the cellar. A gypsy moth fluttered around the lamp, drawn to the light. Seemed to Rady that a moth was always flying around Jimmy’s head these days. Sometimes he’d talk to it. Jimmy was a freak, for sure. “Where are you, Rady? I can’t see you.”
Rady made himself seem small and harmless as he lurched out of the shadows, dragging one foot behind him. He drooled and dangled his tongue out the side of his mouth. That always got to his freaky brother. Maybe he’d start hearing voices and talking to himself again.
Rady smiled at his brother, saliva spilling from his mouth. “‘M hungry. My belly’s growlin’.” Quick as a snake-strike, Rady grabbed his brother’s arm.
Jimmy wrenched away. “Wait—wait—I’m not ready!” He staggered against the door jamb and nearly dropped the lamp in his panic. Rady chortled and waggled his tongue at the terrified boy.
Jimmy botched the slicing of his arm, fumbled the knife, dropped it, snatched it off the floor, and, hissing between his teeth, slashed again at his forearm. Trembling, he offered the bloody arm to his brother. “Here. Hurry and get this over with.”
Rady growled deep in his throat, latched onto the arm, sucked. “Pah!” He spat the blood onto the floor. Rubbing a filthy hand across his mouth, Rady snarled at his brother. “Don’t want! Nasty!” Black and red rage exploded in his mind, blinding him. He lashed out and grunted savagely when he thudded into his brother’s flailing body. Rady charged up the stairs into the house and straight out the front door, slamming into the night.
Rady didn’t stop running till he couldn’t breathe, till his twisted leg hurt too much to run. His stumbling, shambling gait had covered a surprising distance. He crawled under a bush and lay panting. Gradually, the rich scents and furtive sounds of the night began to creep into his nose and ears. Someplace near, Rady could hear a dog barking. Where there was a dog, there was usually a person.
And Rady was very hungry.
A few minutes later, he crouched by a fencepost, staring at a farmhouse. A bright light up on a pole made the yard look blue. Rady didn’t like that. A big brown dog, chained in the yard under a pine tree, growled and barked at Rady. Rady really didn’t like that. Noisy. Slobbery. Wouldn’t even taste good.
A quick rush, though, and the dog shut up with a last yelp. Rady licked his hand. He was so hungry, even dog didn’t taste half bad. The farmhouse door opened. A slim, black-haired woman stepped onto the porch, squinting into the night.
“Caesar? What’s wrong with . . .” She opened her mouth wide.
Rady knew she’d seen what was left of the dog. Rady knew she was gonna make noises. With a growl, he scrambled onto the porch and shut her up, too. Her throat opened under his fangs just like a peach, with a little pop, and the hot, sweet blood poured into his mouth like a river.
With an enraged roar, her man fell onto Rady, interrupting his meal. He smashed Rady’s head into the floor, screaming, “You killed her!”
Then he was just screaming as Rady buried his fangs in the man’s belly and started to rip and tear. Long grey sausage links of intestine slithered out onto the bloody floor from the ragged gash in the man’s body. The man wasn’t even screaming now. He gurgled as Rady stuck his head inside and began to chew.
Rady fed well that night. He was sprawled on the porch and dabbling his fingers in the tacky blood, when Granddaddy drove the pickup into the yard.
“Climb up in the truck, Rady. Gotta get you outta here now.”
The old man was talking with his Old Testament Prophet voice. Even Rady knew better than to mess with him when he sounded like that. Rady shuffled off the porch, grumbling, but not wasting any time. He made sure to drag his foot and twist his body to look small. He reached for the door handle.
“Not the cab, you spawn of Satan. Get in the back. Cover yourself good.”
Rady growled. One of these days he was gonna make Granddaddy eat that spawn of Satan crap. But not tonight. He dragged himself into the back of the pickup and covered himself with a tarp. He hummed tunelessly all the way home, dreaming about the woman’s peach-soft throat.
Rady liked that.
Rady liked that a lot.
* * * *
TRAGEDY IN BUTNER COUNTY
Residents of rural Butner County are reeling from the discovery this morning of the bodies of Jacob Armbruster, 35, and his wife Doreen, 33, at their farm. Early reports indicate that an animal attacked them, killing them and their dog and mauling the bodies. Anyone with information is urged to call the Butner County Sheriff’s Office.