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By Julian Drury
Author's Note: This story is a retelling of a Southern folktale commonly known as "Tail-y-po."
There was the woodsman named Huckle, who was out on one of his usual hunts with his two bloodhounds, Adam and Eve. Huckle had been hard-pressed lately to scrape up a decent meal, as something had been causing the decline of the animal population of the woods. No dove, or deer, rabbit or even the faintest squirrel. It’s as if all of the animals simply vanished, like an old omen of yesteryear. Huckle and his dogs were determined to track a decent meal. It took many hours of patience and searching, yet finally Huckle managed to glance something in his rifle scope. Between the high branches of the rustic leaved tree, a sight, a black spot, came in view. He had no idea what he was looking at through his scope, but it was definitely an animal of some kind.
Or, was it?
Clearly this creature, thing, was an “it,” not a “he” or “she.” Huckle had never seen a creature like it before. His dogs had never smelled such a creature before, causing their hair to rise up from their spines as they growled heavily. This was not a friendly beast. Huckle quietly observed this creature from his scope, gathering in every one of its bizarre features.
The creature looked somewhat like an ape or monkey, with dark-black fur. It sat on a tree branch many yards ahead of Huckle and his dogs, hiding themselves in the brush. It had human/ape like hands to eat, holding what seemed to be some item of food. With its jagged teeth, this beast chomped onto the food item in its hand. Its eyes were of savage, yellow fire, and its face resembled the faces of the the beasts in the children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are. This creature also held a long tail, incredibly long, even for any type of monkey. From the distance Huckle lay, he concluded the tail on the creature alone had to be at least eight feet.
The creature was ominously attracting, as Huckle simply wanted to study its habits. This was until the creature, while swishing its great tail about, gave a wink with its left eye and left eye alone. The creature gave Huckle a wink. Impossible, Huckle thought. Then, it almost seemed as if this creature smiled at Huckle, making his presence known.
Huckle decided to fire two rounds from his rifle. The scope was aimed directly for this creature’s chest, and Huckle felt confident that his shots managed to get direct hits. There was a whimpering cry, followed by hissing and then silence again.
When Huckle and his two dogs examined the fire zone, they could not trace the body of this creature. The dogs sniffed thoroughly around the tree where the creature sat, with no sign of this beast. Just as Huckle was going to stop his search, his dogs caught a scent. When Huckle uncovered the source of the scent, he grew a sense of relief that his efforts of watching that strange creature were not in vain.
In the brush, the dogs uncovered the great tail of the creature, which apparently had been severed as a result of the gunshots fired by Huckle. The tail was indeed quite long, and had decent meat on it. While Huckle briefly considered sending the tail off to fish and game authorities, he quickly realized the main reason why he had been in the woods: food. Huckle and his dogs searched briefly more for the creature, until the sun began to set in the dreary sky.
Huckle lived in a log cabin, just as his ancestors did. The cabin sat eleven miles from the Town of Philip, Allan County. He built the log cabin himself, and specifically for himself alone. Huckle lived alone in the woods, never bothering to marry or venture into neighboring towns. His cabin, dogs, and hunting were his entire life. A lonely life it was, but one that was willfully chosen. Huckle was an outcast to the townspeople, and he had been rumored to stalk campers and other townsfolk who were hunting in the woods. Huckle considered the woods to be his and his alone. It was also rumored that Huckle was responsible for the disappearance of two campers many years ago. The townspeople told many wild stories, though the sheriff could never prove anything against Huckle. This is mainly because no bodies were ever found.
Sometimes Huckle sat on his stoop, smoking from his pipe, wondering if life would have been better had he not become a hermit of the woods. Sure, he would not be physically alone, as in someone to share his space with. Yet, would Huckle be mentally alone? Would he more open, a more compassionate man? Would it make any difference at all? Huckle liked to rationalize that God had preset the personalities of all His creations before they were born, so no matter how they were born, they would all be the same.
As dusk set upon the woods Huckle had the creature’s tail stripped and chopped for a stew, which he prepared well. The meat was tender and perhaps quite tasty. There was even enough meat left for Huckle to feed to his dogs. Huckle finished the entire pot of stew, then drank two glasses of moonshine and prepared himself for bed. It was in the depth of the night, as Huckle tried to sleep, that the true horror began.
It began as a scratching sound, subtle at first. Over a few moments, this scratching began to rise, as did the dogs. The dogs began to growl and bark, as this scratching intensified. Huckle awoke in displeasure, cursing and scrambling to figure out what his dogs were barking at. As he awoke, the scratching ceased for a moment. The dogs remained on edge, clearly signaling that something was not right. Huckle took the warnings of his dogs very seriously. He loaded his shotgun, and opened up his front door. With lantern light held, Huckle looked around the darkness surrounding his cabin.
Suddenly his two dogs, Adam and Eve, burst through the front door, barking while running off into the woods. Huckle knew they gained the scent of something, and felt perhaps they would wind up bringing another meal back with them. Though, many moments passed, and no sign of the dogs. The barking had stopped. Silence abounded. Huckle could no longer see or hear his dogs, which concerned him. He called out for them,
“Get on’ back here!” Huckle began to whistle for them. No response.
Huckle decided to wait till morning. The dogs would probably pop back up before the night was over. Huckle decided to go back inside his cabin and return to bed. An hour or so had passed, and Huckle had drifted slightly back to sleep. Then, Huckle heard scratching on the outside of his cabin. Scratching again and again, louder with every aching noise. Huckle awoke, hearing this maniacal scratching outside of his cabin. At first, he thought that his dogs had returned. Though, an ominous, echoing growl permeated the scene. A growl the like of which Huckle had never heard before. He knew one thing; that was not his dogs.
The shotgun was readied again and the scratching continued. Huckle was ready for a shootout. Then, the scratching stopped. There was a whisper, a light howl. Then, there was a voice. A voice spoke from the outside of Huckle’s cabin. It was a voice, in audible English words. Yet, it was not a human voice speaking to Huckle. It was something else entirely. Something much worse.
“Taidy-bone…” the voice spoke. “Taiiidyyy-booone…you’ve got my Taidy-bone.”
“Go on, git!” Huckle screamed out. “Go on, git! I’ll shoot you mister, or whatever you are! I’ve got a double barrel, and I ain’t afraid to use it!”
“Taidy-bone…” the voice replied. “Taiiidyyy-booone…you’ve got my Taidy-bone!”
“A what? I ain’t got nothin’ of yours! Go on, git!” There was silence, after a brief growl. The quiet disturbed Huckle. Was it all a dream?
Huckle opened the door to his cabin, holding his shotgun high. He lit a lantern, looking around with his shotgun aimed and ready. There was nothing around. No sign of man or beast. Huckle grew a little overconfident, perhaps foolishly. There was nothing but darkness, or so he saw.
“I know you’re out there!” Huckle shouted out. “I ain’t got nothin! Ya’ hear!”
After his outburst, Huckle returned back to his unguarded cabin. Huckle sat on the edge of his bed, holding his shotgun tightly. He knew that whatever was taunting him outside would probably return. He decided to place his shotgun underneath his bed, to grab it quickly in case whatever was outside returned. It wasn’t long after that when Huckle dozed back to sleep. It also wasn’t long after that his fear came true.
“Taidy-bone…” Huckle heard. He awoke in horror to this word, this indescribable phrase. What did it mean? “Taiiidyyy-booone…you’ve got my Taidy-bone!”
The voice was louder than before, as if the voice was coming from inside the cabin. Huckle reached for his shotgun beneath his bed, only to discover it wasn’t there. Panic ensued, and Huckle frantically searched around in the near dark for his gun. No avail. Huckle breathed deeply, and remained huddled in his bed. He was too frightened to move.
“Taidy-bone…” the ominous voice spoke again. Taiiidyyy-booone…you’ve got my Taidy-bone!” Suddenly, Huckle’s shotgun parts were tossed upon his bed one by one, each part perfectly detached in working order. The final set was the two shells that had been loaded into the gun.
Huckle froze, nothing but terror gripped his mind. He could not speak, think, or even breathe properly. It was complete horror, the likes of which every human fears the worst: vulnerability.
“Taidy-bone…give me back my Taidy-bone!”
“I ain’t got no Taidy-bone! I ain’t got nothin!”
Then, at the foot of his bed, illuminated by a shred of moonlight making its way in through a section of un-fogged window, was the form of what had been taunting him. To Huckle’s terror, it was the very same creature that he encountered earlier that day. The very same monstrosity that had its tail shot off…it’s Taidy-bone! It returned, and wanted back what was rightfully its. Huckle could utter only a brief shriek, as he stared into the fiery eyes of his predator
“You’ve got my Taidy-bone…I want’s it back!” There was only one way to get the Taidy-bone back; the Taidy-bone that rested in Huckle’s stomach.
There was a scream, and then silence. A voice then spoke, “Now I’ve got my Taidy-bone…”
The sheriff examined Huckle’s log cabin for the last time, on a quiet day in autumn when the leaves began falling from the trees. The soil was dry, nearly black around the log cabin. The woods were quiet. Not even a chirping bird could be heard, and it seemed almost perfect that way. The sheriff and his deputy were ready to say good riddance to the place, and let it die along with the rest of the forest.
“What’cha think happen to em’?” The deputy asked.
“Don’t know,” the sheriff replied. “He was a rare breed, that one. His story will live forever now.”
“Time will tell.”
“You think he’s dead?”
“Can’t say. Though, my daddy used to tell me stories of somethin’ that lurks in these woods. Somethin’ that lives in the trees, that watches and waits. It comes in the night, always searching. It’s voice deep like a fire, and eyes that pierce the soul. Somethin’ called Revenge.”
“You think it got ol’ Huckle?”
“Only if it found what it was searching for.”
Huckle’s tale ends here. He was never to be seen again, and his log cabin sat empty until time ate it away. The sheriff couldn't declare a death, and Huckle was quietly forgotten by most. His two dogs Adam and Eve were never found, either. For the mysterious beast that bested the poor woodsman, only one reason existed: reuniting with its Taidy-bone. That which it rightfully owned.
What the beast was remains a mystery. No such beast has been seen again by the townspeople. Though, since Huckle’s disappearance, very few venture into the woods at all. The woods have sat quiet, and the breath of life has mostly vanished from its grounds. People tend to stay away. Those who do come to these woods, however, claim to hear an in-human voice whispering deathly omens to them among the shadows of sorrowed trees.
#Unreal #Fiction #Folklore #SouthernFolkTales #SouthernCulture #SouthernStories
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