Monday, September 25, 2017

Finger Lickin Good by Timothy C. Hobbs



Finger Lickin Good

I still got about six hours left, so I’m goin to try and git all of the story down before then. After the moon comes up, it’ll be too late if them things finally get in, which I spect they will cause I done used up all the loose boards I could peel off the walls and furniture in the house. Ain’t nothin else to nail up on the doors and windows now. Heck, I’m out of nails anyhow and damned if I didn’t break the handle on the hammer last night. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy trying to knock them nails in with just the hammer head. Hard on my fingers too.

Anyhow, my name is Earl Sump. I turned ten just before Easter Sunday. Course, all the trouble started back with that damned late cold spell.

My ma and pa and me and my grandma are from a berg called Cooper in Bridger County, Kentucky. We don’t live all that near to Cooper though. We’re in the country about fifteen miles out. There are some other farms too, the closest belongin to the Hendersons about ten miles east of us. When the snow storm hit in mid March, not one soul in Bridger County was prepared. That damned weather just turned quick and without no warnin, dumpin more snow and ice than I’d ever seen in my life. Grandma said the last time she’d seen it that bad was back when she was a girl in 1915.
            
Now most the other farmers didn’t worry about the storm all that much. They’re just planters of things like corn and wheat and maize and cotton. Heck, they don’t do much in winter no how. But my pa, he ran a chicken farm, so he pretty much had to keep it going year round twenty-four-seven.  Course, all of us helped with it. I cain’t recall how old I was when I got put to work, but I cain’t have been more than four. That’s the way it was out here on the chicken farm. All of us Sumps had to pitch in.
            
As you can imagine, that winter blast didn’t do them chickens no good at all. Besides takin down the power lines, the snow was piled so high over Bridger County no snow plows could clear it and no delivery trucks got out to us in the country beyond Cooper. And that included the propane truck, gas that we needed to heat them five big sheds where our chickens was put up. Each one of them sheds held as many as two hundred birds.
            
Pa was beside hisself. He got us to help make bonfires in the sheds to try and keep them birds from freezin to death. And Lordy, we did our best, but almost all of them chickens died anyway. Pa just kept sayin over and over, “What am I goin to do about the Colonel? He buys most all our chickens. Lord have mercy, we are goin be ruined for sure.”
            
Course, the Colonel never really came in person. His company was the one who bought from us along with some egg suppliers and baby chick buyers. But Pa was right, we was surely goin to be put back as far as money went. It nearly broke all our hearts to stack them frozen bodies in the snow drifts. Pa said we’d have to wait till things started thawin before we could dig a big hole and burn the corpses.
           
Ma kept as many of them dead chickens as she thought we needed to have for food, which was a change for us. See, my pa never allowed my ma to cook us no chicken because he was around them constantly and had absolutely no taste for them. Heck, I understood that sentiment. Raisin that many birds sure sent up a stink. It was dirty work and, to be honest, ain’t none of us wanted anything to do with them birds other than get them off to market. I used to have nightmares that the doctor in town took an X-ray of my chest and said my lungs was filled with pin feathers.
            
But the storm had snow bound us, and Ma hadn’t been into town for supplies before it hit. So we could not eat much at all, or learn to eat chicken, which we did. Fried chicken, boiled chicken, chicken and dumplins, well, not many dumplins cause Ma ran out of flour pretty quick, chicken wings . . .  well, you get the picture. Let me tell you, I was plumb sick of chicken in a hurry.
            
It stayed that way for days. The snow kept fallin and it weren’t long until all them dead chicken bodies was covered up by it. Everything got spooky then. Stayin in the house for so many days got us all a little on the nervous side. We’d snap at each other over the smallest of things. The fact we had to keep eatin chicken didn’t help any of our moods out none either. Pa got a little mean and liked to scare me with ghost stories and tales about somethin called The Donner Party where people in wagon trains got stuck in a snow storm and had to eat each other. That scared me so bad I felt like wetting my britches, especially when Pa would kinda look funny at me and grin after he’d told it, his face all in the shadows from our fireplace. Dammed if he didn’t look like some kind of ghoul hisself. Sometimes he’d get off on how the Government was going to be real disappointed about all them dead chickens because they’d supplied him some super food to feed one of the sheds as an experiment. The stuff was suppose to make the birds grow bigger with more meat on them bones. “Goin make them cluckers thick and juicy, sweet and meaty,” Pa’d rattle off. “Lot a good it does them now. Them Feds is goin be real disappointed. Real disappointed.” And then he’d get upset again and start trying to scare me with more spook stories. Ma and Grandma never stopped him neither. Heck, I suppose they was glad he was pickin on me and not them.
            
But all things end and sure enough it finally stopped snowin just before my birthday. We all was happy and Ma made me a special birthday cake. It was real different. Not soft and flaky at all. More thick and crunchy like a big candy bar somehow. So sweet it didn’t need no icin at all. I asked her what was in it and she just grinned and whispered “My secret”. Anyhow, the others didn’t care for it all that much, but I sure chowed down on that cake.
            
The mood in our house picked up, especially when the snow started meltin and the weather seemed more like March should feel. We couldn’t make it into the Methodist church in Cooper for Easter service because the roads was still bad. That upset Ma some, but nobody else seemed to care now that the thaw had started.
            
In a few days, Pa and me had cleared most of the slush away from the house. It was then I could see the dead chicken bodies emerging from under all that snow they had been buried in. And I saw Pa’s mood shift back to ugly. “Damned weather,” he cussed and scowled. “Damned Bridger County.” He eyeballed me like he wanted to damn me too. “You gonna help, Earl. You gonna help me dig a big hole and burn all these bodies before corruption sets in. You hear me, boy?!”
            
He didn’t have to say it like that. There never was a time when I didn’t help out on the chicken farm. I suppose he had to yell at someone though. A person has to let that anger out sometimes. Funny thing is this was the first time I felt like yellin back. Any other time I’d just felt like wetting my britches again when he came down on me. Pa must have noticed it too cause he quit lookin mean at me and headed out to get the shovels.
            
We started diggin before noon and had a big enough ditch dug close to sundown. “We’ll dig a little more tomorrow and then put them stiff cluckers in and burn the lot of em,” Pa said. “Let’s go see what your Ma and Grandma done made for supper.” He scowled and gagged and added, “Course I can guess what the main ingredient is. Now that we’ll be able to get into town soon, it won’t be clucker in any form after tonight though.”
            
After our chicken dinner, I hit the hay a little early. All that diggin had wore me down. I went to sleep right off and probably would have slept through the melee if Ma hadn’t fell on me.
            
I was dazed and couldn’t get my bearings what with all the screamin goin on. When Ma slid off me, I saw she was bad off. Her face was almost completely ripped away. Most of her mouth was gone and her nose was just a bloody stump. One of her eyes was not there anymore. The other dangled on a long ribbon of gory tissue from its socket. Just by lookin, I knew she was gone, and I felt real sad and angry at the same time. I had the wild notion Pa had gone crazy and was in the process of killin all of us. But, it weren’t him. Fact was there was even less of him left.
            
Pa’s body had been ripped and mangled like he’d fell in a shredder. I’d never seen anythin like it. They were workin on Grandma when I finally figured out what had broke in. It was chickens! Well, not chickens like you or me know. They was some kind of monsters. Their beaks was longer than normal and serrated like knife blades. And their bodies was all wrong too. Big, solid bulks of tight muscles, the feathers looked more like reptile scales, and their gigantic feet had razor sharp talons that could rip a human to shreds in seconds, which was what they was doin to Grandma. I don’t know how many they were, but I all of sudden like got furious and grabbed them one after the other and threw them out the open door and slammed it shut and locked it. After I caught my breath, I did wet my britches.
            
“Earl.”
            
It was the weak sound of Grandma’s voice. I couldn’t believe she was still alive. Them things had been workin on her throat but hadn’t got to her windpipe before I’d pulled them off.
           
“Grandma! What happened?”
            
“Your Pa said he heard somethin outside,” she said with a gurgling noise in her throat. I could see she was strugglin, but Grandma had the constitution of a gattlin gun. “Your Ma and me was knittin. The moon had just rose up big and full when there was kind of a shufflin noise outside. A kind of hissin too. That’s what your Pa heard. He opened the door and peered into the yard. ‘Somethin is movin around where me and Earl dug that ditch’ he said and then cussed and added ‘Hell and damnation. I bet the Henderson’s dogs smelled them dead chickens and come down here to have a bite.’ Your Pa grabbed the shotgun and went outside. It weren’t long until we heard him screamin. Your Ma got up and ran to the door about the time your Pa stumbled in with them things draped all over him.”
           
Grandma had a coughin fit and I was certain she was about to go. But she bounced back long enough to ask, “What are them things, Earl? They look like some kind of chicken. Cain’t be though, can they?” A weird grin creased her face. “Guess they sure showed us a thing or two about revenge if they are,” she said and then died.
            
I felt like cryin but nothin came out of my eyes. I think I was too mad to cry.
            
I moved what was left of Ma and Pa to their beds. I did the same for Grandma. I peeked out the windows but couldn’t see nothin but moonlight and the mounds of dead chickens off in the distance. I did hear that hissin noise Grandma mentioned, and I thought I might have caught a shadow or two move around the chicken sheds. But I didn’t see hide nor hare of any of them God awful chicken-things.
            
I got real tired then like somethin just sucked all the juice out of me. I made sure the door was locked and went back to my bed and fell on it with a dead weight thud not even caring if them things came back for me or not.
            
When I woke up it was mornin. First thing I did was go outside and make a bee line for our utility shack. I grabbed all the nails I could carry along with a hammer and got back to the house as quick as I could in case some of them things was still around. Inside, I started bustin up furniture and peeling wood off the walls and nailing it around all the windows. I broke the hammer just before sunset, but managed to get everything battened down good enough to keep them things out if they had a notion to try and break in.
            
I hadn’t even entertained the idea of eatin all day, so when hunger hit, it hit hard enough to make me bend over in pain. It was like my body wanted somethin to eat right then, and if I didn’t get somethin fast, it was goin to punish me for it.
            
I gobbled down what leftover chicken I could find. Heck, I even went through the trash and ate anything I found there, some of which like coffee grounds and old eggshells and globby chunks of fat were just plain disgustin. Disgustin and somehow delicious at the same time.
            
I all of a sudden felt like I was goin to upchuck, but that went away in a flash and I was starvin all over again. I found some of that birthday cake in the bottom of the trash. I guess it was Pa’s or Grandma’s piece cause they hadn’t much cared for it. It was mushed and wet and had bits of chicken meat on it, but I shoveled it down anyway and dug deeper in the trash for more. And that’s when I seen the empty bag of chicken feed, the kind the Government had give Pa to use on that one shed of chickens for their experiment of making super chickens. When I saw bits of the cake on it, that’s when two plus two came to me. Ma had made my cake out of that special chicken feed. That’s why it had tasted so crunchy and sweet. No wonder them cluckers liked it. I can swear to just how tasty it is.
            
I don’t know if that enhanced feed made me suddenly smarter, but I sure felt that way because I knew without a doubt them things outside were the chickens that Pa had fed that food to. Freezin didn’t kill them like it had all the others. Hell, they just went into some kind of deep sleep. When the thaw started, they came back to life and was probably as ravenous as I found myself to be. Pa and Ma and Grandpa were just a good meal for them. I was lucky they didn’t get me.
            
I was wired now and ready for them monster chickens to come back. The windows was barred and the doors too. I sat in the livin room and waited as the sun went down. Pa’s shotgun must have been outside because I didn’t find it. He must have dropped the gun when those things attacked him. But I still had my own twelve gauge Pa give me one Christmas, and I had it loaded and layin across my lap when the first shufflin and hissin noises filled the yard outside.
            
“Here they come,” I said out loud. And sure enough a lot of loud hissin and peckin commenced all around the house.
            
I gripped the shotgun and stood up and waited, but all my work proved to be solid. Not one window or door got opened by them things, and they tried to get in most of the night.
            
Just before sunup, all the commotion ceased, and I heard a lot of disgruntled hissin fade away as them things went off to wherever it was they hid during the day.
            
Fatigue overpowered me and I slept most of the day away. And now here I am where I started this story. I got everything written down as best I could in case somebody, maybe them Feds even, needs to know what went on.
            
Course, I’m hungry again. Worse than I was yesterday. I should probably check outside, but the thought of daylight makes me feel funny inside. Odd thing is, I cain’t stand the notion of being out in the sunlight anymore. With all the window and doors boarded, not much light gets in the house now, and I got an intuition it’s almost sundown anyway. I better get something to eat to get my strength up for the next onslaught by them things outside.
            
But what is there left to eat? I done been through the cabinets and back in the trash again. Nothing but greasy chicken bones there. Oh well, I suppose them bones might crunch up pretty easy. Besides, my jaws feel tight like a trap, so do all my muscles. And these damn clothes are a nuisance now. I’m just gonna strip down to my birthday suit.
            
Lordy! Look at me. My skin is sloughing off. Ain’t one bit of hair left on it. Looks like some kind of scaly, gray flesh is replacing it. Sure nuff, I just ran my hands over the hair on my head and it slid right off. I’m goin to my room and take a better look in the mirror.
            
Seems like that special Government chicken food Ma made my birthday cake out of done had its effect on me too. The face peering back at me from the mirror ain’t very pleasant to look at no more. The skin on it is tough and scaly, my ears is about to fall off, and my eyes are bright red and glowing. When I smile, my teeth are just plumb scary. All pointy and serrated like them monster chicken’s beaks are.
            
I’m a little hunched over now too. Feel like I should move around on all fours instead of only two. I’m still hungry, even after pulverizing them old chicken bones. And there is this scent I’m pickin up that makes my mouth water. Kind of stinky but in a good way. Ma and Pa and Grandma’s bodies seem to be the thing I’m thinkin most on. Pa’s story about the Donner Party keeps comin to mind too. It ain’t snowing no more here in Bridger County, but that don’t make no never mind. I’ll just go and visit the bodies in the bedrooms for a little while. They won’t care none at all. Ain’t like they can feel pain anymore. Besides, I’m just starvin.

* * *

The moon’s up and they came back again hissin and peckin. But I weren’t scared no more and decided to get it over with. I’d had plenty to eat and felt so strong I figured I could take on them monsters and maybe eat a few of them while I was at it.
            
But it didn’t work out that way. Oh, I tore away the wood from the windows and doors all right, and them things came a rushin in hissin and snappin their beaks. And then they got a closer look at me and stopped dead in their tracks. They settled down and milled around me like I was some kind of old friend. Like I was somehow one of them. Shoot, I didn’t feel like killin them anymore neither.
            
I could tell by their edginess they was hungry like I was getting to be. All them red eyes and hissin throats. They kept lookin up at me like I had all the answers. And it come to me that I did. I figured once them things and me finished off what chicken corpses was still piled outside, I could lead them up the road a piece to the Henderson farm.
            
Them Hendersons got seven kids ranging from age two up to twelve, plus the fact Mr. Henderson’s parents and grandparents live with them too. Sounds like dinner time to me. I bet my new compadres will like the idea too.  I believe them Hendersons will be a meal we’ll remember for a long time. A real finger lickin good spread, as the Colonel might say.

Yes siree . . . real finger lickin good!

-End-

Bio Timothy C. Hobbs is a retired medical technologist living in Temple, Texas. He has had short stories and poems published in New Texas, an annual literary collection of Texas writers, a short story and flash fiction piece in Dark Tales, a U.K. publication, and a short story in spinetinglermag.com, an on-line Canadian magazine. His story Moon in Submergence was published in the 2013 Sirens Call Publications anthology Fear of Water. A flash fiction piece, Luna, was published in the spring 2014 edition of the Deep Water Literary Journal. His short story collection, Mothertrucker and Other Stories and a novel Veils were published through Publish America in 2008. His novels The Pumpkin Seed and Music Box Sonata, and a novella The Smell of Ginger, were published by Vamplit Publishing in the United Kingdom and recently republished by Visionary Press Collaborative. Netherworld Books in the United Kingdom published his novel Maiden Fair in 2013. A novella, ED, was published in 2014 by Visionary Press. His new novel Down in the Hollow There will be published in November 2015 by Visionary Press. A collection of flash and short fiction, In the Blink of a Wicked Eye, was published March 2015 by Sirens Call Publications. Mr. Hobbs’ author page can be viewed at Amazon.com.






           
           

            
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