Jaws of the Junkyard
Under a sun without mercy, a pup was trapped in a chicken wire cage. In desperation, the dog had gnawed at the wire, cutting his gums, slicing his dry nose, intertwining blades with his rusty fur. The dog had long given up on begging. No more frantic barks, yips or whimpers. Death was coming, water was not. Cicadas screamed from the trees beyond the field, giving a voice to the heat. Minutes passed agonizingly slow. The cage, ill-suited to fit the lowliest of fowl, was crammed full of not one, but two fur bags. Their limbs touched at all times. The puppies were pushed against each other, and squished against the metal bindings, which cut, endlessly into their skin. Other dogs cried in the distance, this pair of brothers weren’t the only unfortunate creatures held captive on the property. The poor canine, that desperately chewed, fighting for release, was forced to endure, with an exceptionally sensitive nose, the stench of decay. Rank flesh melted under the high noon sun. No clouds, just sick rays beating down. The pup panted and reluctantly ate. Where any human would have given up and died days before, the animal clung to life with the only instinct it could execute properly. But the stink, the rotten mouthfuls, the infernal ball that baked him, the cage that crushed, cut, the drying discomfort of his own blood, it felt endless. Finally, as his mouth filled with the taste of iron, the pup stopped chewing and rested his chin on his rotting brother, sending flies to scatter from the runt of the litter that had died two weeks before.
“Sit. Watch.” The dog obeyed the human’s command immediately and with great respect. The girl beside him scanned the junkyard, her body tense and her breath strained. “Good boy, Virgil.” The German Sheppard, that Jaws had rescued five years before, licked his chops. Monsters normally didn’t come out during the day, but Jaws could sense the eyes on her. It was hiding, but it was arrogant enough to creep out and get a look at her. Another slow, deliberate breath, pulling the warm air through her nostrils and processing every subtle scent. She couldn’t sense like Virgil, but she was adept for a human. She hated places like this; they were breeding grounds for all kinds of bad news. Old abandoned farms, soggy houses meant for destruction, retired factories, poorly maintained crypts or graveyards, and junkyards, particularly, festered with creeping things. She knew that this place wasn’t safe. The monster was too comfortable. She had the feeling, her skin rippling with bumps of fear, that the thing that lurked there identified the junkyard as his domain.
Virgil was hesitant in this setting. When Jaws took a step forward, he slowly padded a paw down behind her. The Junkyard was vast, abandoned and completely fenced it. Aside from the piles of groaning metal, there was little relief from the sun. Jaws knew it would be a sour brigade of memories for the dog. He would feel stirred with a learned fear, but she pressed because she knew that they couldn’t run from every task that gave them the willies or painful recollections.
Jaws’ green eyes flickered, her left leg thrust forward, ready to run. The fence was lined with barbed wire, the second exit was padlocked, and the employee’s building appeared to be sealed. A few of the tossed heaps had been rearranged. Jaws wasn’t sure if the monster had a den in a carved pile of reclaimed human creation or in the building. She tongued her braces. A cicada called and Virgil flinched. “Nice dog you got there.” An amiable voice said. Jaws didn’t let her guard down. She didn’t even look at the figure. A jarring piece of metal sang to her on the far left. The monster had set traps. The trap was practically groaning, and since she hadn’t seen it shuffling in the yellow grit, she was sure the traps had been set long before she arrived. For someone else. Her head snapped and she acknowledged the speaker.
“Ah, he’s not so nice.” She said, shoving her thumbs into the pockets of her worn shorts.
“Can I pet him?” The stranger asked. He was a teen, pushing man, clinging to youth. Probably didn’t know the first thing about leaving his home, the shithole small-town.
“I’d advise against it. He was abused, so he’s really untrusting of others.” Virgil cocked an ear. Jaws read the signs that her mutt gave her. The monster was now behind them. She doubted it would strike. It was just surveying her as either a threat or meal. The boy had no idea.
“What, puppy mills? Dog fighting?” It was key to Jaws’ survival that she be able to quickly surmise and summarize everyone around her. The stranger wasn’t so complicated. He was stuck with a burger joint jobs, stains on his once-white shirt indicating. He was athletic, baseball. Baseball bat slung over his right shoulder made that clear. He was average intelligence, squandering the IQ had naturally, this was clear by the way he slackened his jaw.
“You’d think. But the situation is much more complicated than that.” Jaws gently touched Virgil’s head.
“You wouldn’t believe me.”
“Try me.” The boy insisted.
Jaws turned, facing where she felt the tremors of the monster. It was lurking somewhere behind a pile of tires, that were soft from baking all day in the sun. He was masking his murderous odour behind the aroma of warmed tar. Without looking at the straggler, Jaws finally answered. “This thing… had hundreds of dogs and cats in cages near a house that everyone in town thought was abandoned.” Jaws’ felt her lip quiver with disgust. This wasn’t just the repressed memory of a tortured pup, it was just as much hers. “I guess it had tendencies to hoard or something. Because it had more than it could possibly eat. Spent all night hunting. In the days, it digested them first, then ate them, one by one. Horrible sight, animals left to rot in the sun, some still alive. Man, I could hear them all screaming.” The boy listened intently, with an incredulous eyebrow raised. “I don’t know what it was. I haven’t encountered one like it since. Maybe it was a bug. I dunno. All I know is, it worked its way up to humans, and that’s when our paths crossed.” She gestured to her loyal dog, who pushed his nose against her palm. “It hit several houses all in one night. Threw us in a cellar. Ate through about half us before we started fighting back. An old neighbour wounded it. Killed the rest off, which left me. At that point, I don’t think it was eating the animals anymore. I managed to get an advantage. I ran off for the woods. When I saw what it had done to the animals, I circled back, let the ones that could still move out, and we swarmed the evil thing.” Jaws left out the details about how her parents had been eaten, and that the local police had figured her for dead, too. The last thing she needed was for the townie to go off telling people that he met her and have people come looking. The reason she and Virgil could do what they did, was that she was just a ghost to the world, hitchhiking from one hotspot to the next. “Now I fight monsters.”
The stranger’s first reaction was to laugh. Jaws didn’t pay attention. The current monster had been listening, and now was aware of the situation. She was here to kill it. It was late afternoon, mid-august, the sun was casting the loud and yellow glow across the lot. Jaws pulled her socks to her knees. “So, what, does that mean there’s a monster here?” He was smiling, but something in her story rang true to him, and a quick glace told her that he was afraid. Virgil growled. When trying to eliminate those boogymen cowardly preying in the corners of quiet communities, extras made the job difficult. Kids like the bat-wielding, skeptical guy tended to either die, get used as bait and then die, or, under the protection of dumb fucking luck, survive just to run off a drag the police over, meaning Virgil and Jaws had to split that much faster.
“Whatever it is, it can see us now. I’m thinking by all the missing kid posters that it’s your average troll.” She paused to nervously touch a lock of her dark brown hair. “I don’t have much of a classification system, but I’ve noticed some reoccurring themes in my travels.”
“What does it want?” The boy asked, still using a tone that suggested he didn’t quite believe her, to save his ego.
“To eat prepubescents and collect their bones.” A pile of junk toppled. A warning. The monster was roused, still arrogant, and probably amused. The boy whirred and grunted.
“You’re a mean one, aren’t you?” Jaws yelled. A plate of metal clattered in response. That time she caught the quick glimpse of a plump claw. She hissed, wishing she’d got here sooner. It was well-fed, which meant the victim count was high.
“Look, I have some friends coming. We were going to, you know, play a bit of ball. But, we can help you kill it. If it’s really the thing that is taking the kids.”
“No.” Jaws said quickly. Virgil stood. “I closed the gate on my way in. The less here, the better.”
The stranger had greasy hair and skin, from profuse sweating. He ran a hand through his hair before standing beside Jaws, in his thin, passably athletic glory. “I’m Mike.”
“I don’t want to know your name.”
“I want to help.” He said, not understanding what he was offering. Jaws rolled her eyes.
“Go back around that way. See if the second gate is unlocked or if it can be pried open. If it is, Mike, then run.” Naturally, the stubborn intruder with the hot blood of a male, felt he must protect her. “At least keep out of our ways. One slip up could be fatal for all three of us.”
The sun inched just a little bit higher, and Jaws stepped into a round opening, free of metal remnants and useless car parts. With her chest pushed outward, she challenged the beast. She felt the weight of her lighter in her pocket, the comfort of her small metal blade pressed against her thigh. This was the moment she had to have keen eyes, it would reveal everything. Several piles of stacked junk toppled, she didn’t move. Her eyes followed the trail. Her gaze couldn’t keep up. “Shit!” She cried. Loyal and shaper still, Virgil let out one powerful bark with his snout poised at a particularly high stack which remained undisturbed. Jaws sighed with relief and ran towards it. “Good boy!” She called as she ran. Mike, not heeding her warnings, was quick to follow after her.
With a fluid motion, Jaws ducked, and a split second later, was able to visualize the massive arm that narrowly missed her, but made harsh contact with the chest of Mike. She saw his surprised face as he saw a monster, the make-believe, in full reality, and saw his expression change to pain. This was where the decision had to be made, and she always made the right but emotionless one. She didn’t help Mike, she didn’t pull out her tiny blade and feebly swipe. Her leg skidded, the sand eroded the top few layers of skin on her knee, and she was back on her feet and chasing after Virgil, who knew the way. Screams erupted into the air behind her, and the gut-wrenching snapping of bones. The monster roared. It wouldn’t be able to catch her.
Jaws broke form and looked back. The light was now lower, more saturated, and revealing a creature that should never be out in day. This made it weak. It was naked, and lumbering after her, wearing the face of unmistakable rage. It had pale grey skin that was too lose for its fat body. It was adorned with an egg-like head that was overflowing with yellow teeth. It had long arms that hung to its calves and nails each the size of cleavers. It was completely bare, bits dangling as it ran, half, mercifully concealed by its distended, fat gut. Jaws’ natural reaction would be to gag because it smelled worse than the field of dead and dying animals, but she kept it in. She was almost there.
Virgil was already pawing for some kind of entrance, pushing his head in all the holes in the tower of heap metal. There was absolutely no time to waste. It was day, yes, the creature’s strength was reduced by that, but not enough. Jaws slid and fell into the structure, losing no momentum, and then wormed into the small hole that Virgil had located, scrambling just behind his tail. The smell was overwhelming. In interior was dripping. “Good boy.” She huffed. The monster no longer tried to catch her, and doubled back. It was the arrogance of that thing that helped Jaws’s crusade. It probably had no idea what she was doing, because no human had defied it before, and monsters didn’t have conventions where they discussed their own vulnerabilities. “Virge, find another exit.”
Jaws didn’t want to look around, but rays of light crept through the small crevices. She’d seen nests like this before but it didn’t make it any less devastating, especially when it was children. Their cleaned skulls were hung as trophies. Bits of their meat were scattered. A bloodied mattress, a few torn pillows, old blankets, and pulled car seats were in the centre, a place where it could rest and satiate in its horrifying accomplishments. There were no survivors. Her stomach hallowed. Virgil yipped as he found the main way the creature crawled in and out. With a metallic tink, Jaws flicked her lighter on. The nest the thing had formed would serve as good kindling. The moment the fire touched his den, she could hear the monster howling and a new kind of rage was born.
Virgil made it out first. Jaws kicked back at the smoke and pulled herself free. She clutched the blade and the duo ran into opposite directions. She identified a bloody mound as Mike, grimaced, no time to dwell. The massive monster, at least twice the size of an average male, darted toward Jaws. This allowed for the movement of Virgil. The dog dove in from the left and buried his teeth into the monster’s ankle. Having practiced these movements before on other foes, Virgil anticipated the monster to swat and ducked out of the way. With the anger redirected, and the monster weakening every second from his burning home, Jaws lunged, eliciting a powerful war cry, and stabbed into the other foot. The beast toppled. Any mistake could kill them in seconds. If the monster was to kick quickly enough, he could shatter the dog’s ribs and snap his neck, or if he had swung his elongated arm upward, he could have impaled Jaws on all five of his claws. However, Jaws executed her moves with precision. With her small blade whipping in tandem with her body, she shoved it downward between two of the monster’s vertebrae. The rest was par for the course, and dirty as hell. Jaws sliced at the neck of the grunting, paralyzed monster and her loyal companion dug the monster’s face into a pulp. They brought it down from its godlike frenzy, to the state of a man, then to the position of a victim. “Not so tough.” Jaws said. She spit and finally stopped straddling and stabbing.
Jaws dragged her bloody hand along her forehead, but it only served to spread the gore. Virgil shook his whole body, like any wet dog would, sending chunks of inhuman flesh and bits of blood in a radius around him. “I wouldn’t even say that one comes close to worst of it.” Neither of them had sustained any injuries. It was a job well done. A ripple of pride stirred in her. They’d saved a lot of children from a cruel kidnapping, ultimate fear, and a brutal murder. They’d saved a lot of parents from eternal wondering. She turned to face Mike. His hand was clenching and unclenching. “I’m sorry.” She wheezed. It was plain to see that he wouldn’t live. The monster had nearly torn him inside out. His poor heart was pumping the final squirts of blood he had left, the rest was staining the sand.
Virgil’s sharp ears picked up on the movement of kids nearby, probably Mike’s friends arriving for some catch. This meant that they couldn’t stay long. Jaws paused and stood over the body with a frown. He wasn’t technically dead, still sputtering up large globs of blood, but his mind was already gone. Jaws knew enough about people that she had been pretty certain he would figuratively never “grow up” or ever trade up for a life in a better place. Yet, she felt deeply sad knowing he would literally not grow up either. It was one of many five minute relationships she had with strangers since starting her journey. These sad meetings had defined her warmth with other humans since the massacre which had carved her. But, in that moment of deep loneliness and desire for human contact, watching, removed, as Mike stopped twitching, Virgil licked her fingers.