I could hear them eating.
I’d been making the rounds of my islands, as I am wont to do in good weather when the sound of bones breaking and flesh tearing rolled across the water.
At first, I thought perhaps the merfolk had gotten their hands on a deer foolish enough to get too close to the edge of an island, but as I narrowed in on the noise, I realized something was wrong.
It was lasting too long.
Merfolk would have made short work of even the largest of deer, and as there was no thrashing about in the water, my initial supposition had to be wrong.
Guiding the canoe across the lake, I honed in on Devil’s Island, home to the largest of my burial grounds. It was where I buried bodies that couldn’t be gotten rid of safely or – worse – might decide to return.
Pulling in at the short pier that extended from the shore, I made the canoe fast, climbed out, and drew both Colts, pulling the hammers back. The wind shifted slightly and brought with it the rank odor of rotting flesh and the sweeter scent of freshly turned earth.
I followed the trail up to the first part of the burial ground and found a scene of chaos.
Graves had been opened, and rotten clothes were scattered about the piles of fresh earth. Bones littered the ground, and as I walked forward, the sound of eating grew louder.
I found the culprits a moment later.
A pair of men, clad in clothes of black and white, with packs on their backs and wide-brimmed hats on their heads, sat close to one another, devouring the remains of one of my cousins. Despite the foul nature of their meal, the men were surprisingly clean, although when they turned to face me, I saw strips of putrid flesh clinging to their cheeks and soiling their lips.
For a moment, they looked at me and I at them, and then they turned their attention back to their meal.
They had no interest in the living, and I had none in the dead.
There were plenty of corpses on Devil’s Island. Nearly two hundred years’ worth.
Holstering my Colts, I returned to my canoe and wondered how many they might be able to eat.