He was nothing more than a husk.
I don’t know who the fellow was. Perhaps a man coming down from Pepperell or Boston. There’s a chance, too, that he was a vagrant drifting in from Gods’ Hollow. Regardless as to who he was or where he was from, the man was dead.
And he had died badly.
I found him this morning across from the Hollow, his body withered and twisted, bound in rough, raw silk that came from no creature this side of the Atlantic. There was a foul odor about him, one that tugged on a memory. Before I could bring that recollection forth, I heard a gentle, demure voice call out to me.
I turned to face the woods and saw a young Japanese woman half-hidden in shadow. She smiled shyly at me and asked in her native tongue if I might be able to help her. I didn’t respond, not wishing to let on that I understood her.
Cocking my head to one side, I frowned, feigning ignorance.
She took a small step forward and lowered her voice even more.
She told me she was hungry, that the man had done nothing to satiate the gnawing in her belly. Her smile broadened as she held out her hands to me, beckoning me toward her. There was something in her eyes, an almost mesmerizing glow to them, and the memory attached to the odor leapt forward.
As the name blazed through my thoughts, my hands dropped to my Colts, and by the time the weapons cleared leather, she was springing at me, shifting form in mid-air.
She was no longer a delicate young woman but a spider the size of a horse.
The Colts roared in the early morning air, rounds snapping into her eyes and blowing black ichor out the back of her carapace. Her squeals of agony caused my ears to bleed, and I swore as I sidestepped her stumbling form.
She skidded in the dirt of North Road, and I emptied the Colts into her.
The spider shuddered once, then collapsed, dead in the road.
I reloaded the Colts, dropping the hot, spent casings at my feet.
Holstering the weapons, I drew my Bowie knife and set about butchering the corpse.
By the time I was done, I was covered in her fetid stench and angrier than I had been.
April was going to be a hell of a month.