Friday, September 15, 2017

Scavenger Logic

Scavenger Logic
Bobby Derie

"These things are predators, see." One latex-gloved finger slipped inside the corpse's mouth, and he peeled back the lip to expose black gums, jagged yellowing fangs with gaps in between them. "Ghouls don't normally go after living humans. Only the older, sicklier ones, the loners on the verge of starvation. They hunt and scavenge in packs; the weak get forced out, fight for scraps, then left behind to die. That's when they get dangerous."

Detective Jack Bastard stepped around the body, letting the technician continue chalking it. Behind him, the flash of a camera briefly back-lit him again the chunk of meat in the wheelchair, which occupied the middle of the small, cramped bedroom. He turned slowly to look at the pair of pale legs sticking out of the tattered gingham dress, which ended rather abruptly shortly above the waist in a bloody ruin. They still hadn't found the top half.

"They don't look for a fight. Go after the young, the old, the sick, the lame, the ones that aren't protected. Stragglers of the herd. That's scavenger logic. Nursing homes are prime spots for a lone ghoul. They sleep a lot, and dream often of death. The stench of dying things hangs around these places. Can't really defend themselves."

The detective stepped out of the way again, took a wider view of the scene. The victim on the ground was nude, with the lean, quivvering flesh of a chihuahua, skin loose over small, taut muscles. Hairless except for a fine down, which was white. The white line of scars were visible on the flesh, especially around the arms - like a stray cat. Digits ended in pale, arched claws, bits of meat still stuck under the nails. It's throat was a gaping wound, blood gone black and sticky. The head was wrong; jaw too prominent, muscles on the side overdeveloped, pointing forward. A biter.

"They do fight, if cornered. Like rats. Adrenaline response; they'll escape if they can, but if they're boxed in - and human buildings are just a nest of boxes - then they can scrap it out. That's what happened here." He pointed at lines of fresh scratches on the face. "Not a mated pair; they would have shared. This was somebody caught be surprise. Overlapping territory. Two of them came in. Fought to the death over scraps, this one lost. The other..."

He tapped his canine teeth together, jaw chattering briefly in gibberish Morse code.

"...they took the meat, what they could carry, anyway. Ghouls like dead meat; want it to ferment for a while. Alligators do the same, pull the prey under, drag them somewhere to soften before they start to tear pieces off. The winner has a lair, or at least a larder. That's where the rest of grandma is. Stronger and tougher than the old boy here, but not strong enough to haul all of her in one trip - runt of the litter, maybe."

He clicked his teeth again. "The other one left his opponent behind, though. Must have been surprised; lone ghouls tend to be cunning, out of necessity. They know they're vulnerable, away from the pack. Don't like to leave traces. They don't feed on each other, though." The detective gave a back-throat chuckle. "That would be cannibalism."


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