• Melanie McCree

The Witness

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

I swear, I mostly just eat chicken. And rabbit sometimes.


My friend Claire said I couldn't be a vegetarian, and I said, of course not, that's like asking a fish to live in a tree, and she said that was just an excuse. It isn't. Some of us are born meat eaters. But I generally eat chicken, because there are about a gazillion chickens in the world and they all might as well be the same chicken. And I eat vegetables, too. They're good for you.


I follow the rules. Not like my brother Brian, you know what he's like. There was that one time he came down with his idiot college friends for the weekend and they all drank a bunch of beer and then went out and stole a cow - a freaking cow! - off the Benson's ranch. And of course everybody knew who did it, and we got slapped with a huge fine and Dad said we were lucky Tom Benson didn't take us to court over it.


I didn't eat any of that cow, just so you know.


I don't do stupid stuff like that. This is a small community and we have to be able to trust one another. I don't want the people at school to shut me out. I don't want the neighbors to stop talking to me, or glare at me when somebody's dog runs away. Dogs do just run off. It happens. People shouldn't automatically blame my family for it. But that's the world we live in, you know? When you aren't like everybody else, that's how you get treated.


Anyway, me and Claire were out night running. We have to do it on the road because she can't see much in the woods when it's dark out. It's no big deal, her running at night, even though she's fourteen and pretty, because I go furry when I run at night and nobody's going to mess with teeth like mine, even if they could get close enough without me smelling them.


We're almost done with the run and Claire's getting tired. I can tell when she's really tired because her sweat smells saltier and sort of heavy, and her feet hit the road harder. So I slow down, too, because we're on one of the back roads in the middle of the night and I'm not going to just run ahead and leave her by herself. And Claire's all, "Wouldn't it be freaky if your brother jumped out at us right now?" Because he used to do that a lot back when we were in middle school. And I'm like, "you wish!" And she's all, "it's not like I like him or anything," which is a lie, she totally loves my brother, she's so into him it's not even funny.


And then we hear this growling. Claire goes quiet and stands closer to me, and I want to protect her, but the problem is, I can't smell anything but normal forest. Trees and gravel and bugs and night air and nocturnals, I can smell all those. But my nose isn't catching a serious predator-scent, and trust me, I know an apex predator's growl when I hear it.


So I growl back, real low, the one you do that lets them know you aren't screwing around and it'll get ugly if they don't back off. And I bump my head against Claire's shoulder because she smells like panic and she needs to take some deep breaths. And suddenly something leaps at us, incredibly fast - all I could see was a blur, and like I said, I have really good night vision. It jumps out, and then it's gone, and it's got Claire and she's screaming even though I've told her and told her that's the worst thing you can do. Like, the absolute worst. Screams are music when you're hungry.


I still couldn't smell whatever it was, but I could smell Claire's blood, so I followed that into the woods, howling my head off. I was like, "Dad, hear me, please, please hear me." And just praying that he would. He has good hearing, my dad. Super good.


I followed the thing a fair ways, maybe five minutes running flat out, and the whole time I'm waiting for that boom of smell that says something just got torn open. If I smelled that, I'd know Claire was dead. When something alive gets torn open, it's like somebody popped a blood balloon. Sorry, that's kind of gross. But that's how strong the smell is.


And I get to this clearing, and the creature has Claire on the ground and it's standing over her, waiting for me. Like, "I'm gonna eat this, see if you can stop me," kind of thing. And Claire finally stops screaming and gets the panic under control like she's supposed to. I can still smell tears and snot, but anybody would be crying, it's not her fault.


I honestly have no idea what the creature was. It was about twelve feet tall, maybe a little more, and hairy all over. It reminded me of an orangutan, kind of, but also of a bear. With big bat ears. And it had four eyes in a line across its forehead, two over its snout and two further back. The snout was the bear-looking part. It had sharper teeth than a bear, though. Sharper claws, too.


I thought two things: One, that if I didn't fight, Claire was going to get eaten right in front of me. And two, that if I did fight, I'd lose, and we'd both get eaten. That's how it works.


But, look. Claire is mine. Not like romantically, I mean... Ugh, you are totally taking this the wrong way. She's got my scent on her. She's mine.


The creature knew it, too. I got down low and showed my teeth and got ready to jump. We'll all die someday, you know? Might as well do it for the right reason. But suddenly, my dad shows up literally out of nowhere. And he's got Brian with him! And I'm like, when did Brian come home? I didn't even know he would be home this weekend! But with Dad and Brian there I feel a lot better. My dad is state Alpha, I don't know if anybody ever told you that. He's Alpha for the whole state of Colorado. And as long as Brian doesn't screw up again, he's going to take over in a couple of years when he's earned his Masters and he can take our dad in a fight. Brian is big when he's furry. So you don't mess with my dad and Brian.


They come at the creature from either side, jumping and grabbing and trying to pull it down like you do, and it's trying to get them with its claws and teeth but Dad and Brian are too fast for it. They're only getting grazed a little bit, and the creature's bleeding like crazy, strips torn off all over its body. And finally, finally I can smell it. I guess it has some way of hiding its scent, but not when it gets hurt.


I'm not sure I can explain this next part to you in a way you'll understand. My nose works differently than yours. But the creature smelled like bad blood. Like old bones cracked open and that weird sweetness of dead things. It's really old. Centuries, probably. My dad would know better than me, he's smelled all sorts of monsters.


Anyway, with Dad and Brian and the creature all ripping into each other, I get in the mood to fight, too, so I try to run in and help like a moron, but Brian turns and snarls at me and Dad gives me this look like, "what are you doing, seriously?" So instead I wait until I can get to Claire, and then I run in and she wraps her arms around my neck and crawls on my back, and we are out of there. Like, gone. And Claire starts crying really hard, but by then I don't even care because I'd be crying too if I could. I whine when I'm furry. So I'm whining like I'm six months old and Claire's crying her face off, and then we both start laughing because it's like we've got helium in our brains and everything is the funniest joke we've ever heard in our whole entire lives.


And... I guess you know the rest. I took Claire here and you guys called her parents and they came and got her. My dad said it was okay if I stayed over, so I rode with them. I slept on Claire's bed, curled up on her feet. She didn't like that much, but I needed to be close, you know? I needed to know she was okay. She's my best friend. I'd tear the world apart for her.


So, yeah. That's my statement, I guess. That's everything that happened.


Except...


Okay. One more thing. I'm just a teenager, and I know you probably feel weird about listening to a teenager telling you stuff. And I really respect the job you guys do.


But that thing got away before my dad and Brian could kill it. That's why more people are dying. It's still out there.


This isn't your world. You've got your guns and your body armor and whatever, and you think that makes you invincible. You're not. You're little birds.


You shouldn't try to find it. I mean that, just let Dad and Brian deal with it. Stay inside, lock the door, wait until we tell you it's safe. Because the thing is - and I mean, I swear I would never, so you don't have to worry or anything, but...


The thing is...


You smell like food.




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