Both men hunker down in meadow grass staring through separate riflescopes.

The dark hulk stands a long way off bordering one edge of a nocturnal forest. Full moonlight tinges its shaggy silhouette in tendrils of pale silver with twin points of what seem to be eyes glowing within like molten emeralds.

Ralph Eckert whispers to his brother Sam, “After searching for twenty years, Mr. Squatch finally drops in our laps.”

“That’s Mr. Sasquatch to you. And are you sure? It’s hard to tell from here.”

The shape abruptly disappears into distant woods.

“Let’s find out, Sammy! We can ask any price for bagging a squatch!”

“Even with night scopes, tracking that thing in the dark’s a piss poor idea. And we’re miles from our truck.”

“You can either stay here or back me up! But if I bag it alone, I’ll collect alone!”

“Alright, I’m with you!”

Both brothers traverse the meadow before standing approximately where their target vanished.

Sam probes the entrance to a well-worn trail with a flashlight mounted below the end of his rifle barrel.

Ralph scans using an identical setup; “The path’s too hard and root bound to see any footprints; and nothing’s moving down there.”

“I don’t see anything either.”

“Come on; let’s explore it anyway.”

Ralph bounds ahead of Sam. They hike the path through flanking Douglas Fir, Alder, Cedar and Spruce Trees intermingling with stands of bracken ferns, blackberry canes, foxglove stalks and dormant wildflowers.

Their lights eerily contrast ground plants in full color against tree-hulked darkness filtering through lunar shadows. Clusters of chirping crickets, bassoon-like frogs and a rustling breeze surround them while wisps of dust flair their nostrils.

“Hey Ralph!” asks Sam after a sudden sneeze, “I thought Sasquatches were supposed to stink like skunks, stale piss and vinegar.”

“That’s the story.”

“I’m not picking up any stench.”

“Me neither; but let’s keep moving.”

Their bouncing lights dance shadows from tree-to-tree. Then a massive cracking noise resonates through the surrounding timber.

“What the hell was that?” croaks Sam tightening his trigger and staring hard in all directions.

“Squatch must’ve doubled back on us! Lock up!”

Both brothers press back-to-back pointing their rifles straight ahead; but nothing passes across their beams.

“Any other bright ideas?” complains Sam.

“Dry up! That wood snap was damn close! We might get a lucky shot!”

“Or Sasquatch may be enjoying some cat-and-mouse! Feel like a piece of cheese?” blurts Sam Eckert with icy sweat welding the shirt to his back, “Some weird ass shit’s going on!”

“You’re crediting too much intelligence to that animal, Sammy!”

“Then why are we standing on an open trail while it stays hidden?”

“Because it’s timid toward strangers; squatches always are!”

A large boulder slams the weeds within twenty feet of both hunters.

Sam fires two rounds setting off a primal roar that dies quickly in the night.

“You got him, Sammy!” yells Ralph running toward the unseen scream zone.

“Goddamnit, Ralph, hold it! You don’t know what’s in there!”

Ralph stops and turns toward his brother, “I know that screech sounded like you nailed whatever it is dead to rights! Come on, Chicken Shit, or I’ll leave you behind!”

Sam reluctantly follows as Ralph moves off the main trail quickly illuminating some splatter sign among trampled weeds.

“Sonofabitch!” barks Ralph, “You only winged the goddamned thing!”

That’s not blood!” counters Sam shining his light along generous droplets of yellowish fluid tinged in pink, “It looks more like piss and pink lemonade.”

The wind shifts.

“Phew!” complains Sam breathing through his mouth, “Rancid slop roils my gut!”

“You must have blasted it through the gut or liver. That crud could be stomach acid or bile or both. Let’s go!”

After glistening in patches along the forest floor, the spatter eventually leads back onto the main path. Standing again on bare dirt and naked tree roots, both brothers scan in every direction.

Ralph suddenly illuminates an enormous, hairy mass on the trail twenty yards ahead before squealing, “There’s our solid gold carcass, Sammy!”

“Chill out! Something’s dicey about this!”

“Bullshit! We followed that thing’s leaking guts over a quarter-mile. Old Squatch’s bled out for sure!”

Approaching the unmoving hulk, Sam aims his rifle saying, “Let me blast the head to make sure!”

“Like hell; the better the carcass’s condition, the bigger our pay off!”

They both stand over the creature flashing lights onto its scarred, leathery face; both its eyes are closed.

Squatch snaps a low vine concealed in its massive right hand.

A Douglas Fir Tree branch straightens out catching the brothers across the torso and swatting them through the air with both rifles flying from their grasps.

They lay unconscious as Squatch stands illuminated from a propped flashlight. It sniffs and wrinkles its nose from the cork of an unsealed human skin bag strapped across one shoulder. The creature replaces the cork and pats its bait bladder. Then it breaks the rifles against a tree trunk before hauling both captives by their belts toward the moon stained meadow.

Sam Eckert awakens tied with vines to the sounds of his brother’s screams.

Squatch stands in full moonlight behind the level top of an enormous tree stump while wielding a massive stone ax in one hand and pinning his first victim against the saw cut grain with the other.

Ralph flails wildly on his back until the ax cleaves his screaming head off quivering shoulders with a single blow. Then Squatch tosses the writhing body onto an adjacent weed patch like a freshly decapitated chicken.

Sam pisses his trousers and bites a lip struggling not to scream.

Squatch smells fresh urine glancing at his remaining captive. Then the killer cracks Ralph’s severed skull against its ax like a coconut.

Sam jolts with horror but can’t look away as the titanic brute removes his brother’s brain like a peeled orange and devours it; Eckert wretches from knotting guts.

Then the creature hangs Ralph’s body by both feet from vines dangling under the primary branch of a lone Alder Tree. The hunter’s corpse drains beside the headless bodies of a cougar and black bear bracketing it on both sides.

Soon Eckert bursts a blood vessel screeching as Squatch grabs his belt loop while snapping every arm and leg bond asunder.

Sam squirms as the eight-foot giant presses his victim’s back against the gore soaked stump before raising its ax again.

A shrill siren resonates abruptly through the moonlit air.

Squatch shudders releasing his prey and dropping the ax onto flattened weeds.

The captive sprints before plunging into thick brush near the meadows edge.

Squatch walks in a trance toward the center of the clearing.

Then Sam hears footsteps pounding from behind. He turns onto his back beholding another towering Sasquatch lumbering obliviously past him.

Eckert rolls onto his stomach now observing four massive creatures coming from separate directions to join the initial biped.

He suddenly sees an enormous, dull gray, internally lit; triangular craft descend from the sky to hover fifty feet above the creatures. A rounded aperture emerges from its bottom center bathed with a molten emerald glow. A tubular light beam envelopes and levitates Ralph’s brain glutton ten feet above the others.

Then a narrower, darker green beam shoots through the core of the levitation light and splits the floating hulk vertically from head-to-toe with bloodless precision.

Squatch’s bait bag and severed entrails plop to the ground while both bisected halves hang in mid air like alternate sides of butchered beef.

Sam’s mouth hangs open as every squatch is identically rendered before the ship draws each hairy slab inside and closes its aperture.

Then the vehicle descends within a yard of the ground before spreading open a side door near its base. A quintet of hairy, five-foot-tall bipeds scurry out before the ship reseals and accelerates into the starry canopy of space.

“I’ll be damned!” ponders Sam to himself, “I wonder if they crave onions with Sasquatch steak?”

The underlings locate the ripening tree. Two of them carry and place the cougar onto the chopping block as the most muscular of the five stands holding the stone ax shakily over its head in both hands.

Sam slinks away while the youngsters gnaw severed cat before he sprints deeper into the forest inwardly cheering, “I’m gonna make it! But no one’s ever going to believe m-“

Hitting a branch trip vine, Sam is swatted unconscious against a decayed tree snag.

Surging with predatory lust, the young hunters seize stones and race toward the sound.

Eckert awakens flat on his back surrounded by glowing green eyes and locked within a nest of hairy, constricting arms He looks up managing a gasp as the silhouette of a stone ax against a full moon plummets toward his pulsing throat.

Copyright © 2017 by William F. and Alice L. Johnson